Emergency Brexit lorry controls at Dover to be made permanent

10 August 2021, 22:59 | Updated: 10 August 2021, 23:13

Operation Brock implemented at the end of 2020
Operation Brock implemented at the end of 2020. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Emergency lorry traffic controls designed to prevent post-Brexit disruption at the Port of Dover are to have their "sunset clauses" removed, meaning they can be used indefinitely.

The implementation of a traffic reconfiguration to the M20 will be able to continue past its current October 31 deadline once the changes have been made law.

The Department for Transport (DfT) insisted the alteration was not only related to Britain's exit from the European Union.

It said Operation Brock could now be used to respond to "any type of traffic disruption in the area".

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Traffic management measures were initially introduced in Kent amid fears that Brexit could lead to disruption for cross-Channel trade.

Kent Access Permits - where lorry drivers had to secure a permit before entering south east England - and Operation Brock were part of this.

Operation Brock consists of a series of concrete barriers, allowing lorries to be held on one side of the M20 to access the Port of Dover, while other traffic continues to flow in both directions via a restricted narrow lane contraflow system on the other side of the road.

A moveable barrier - which the DfT announced in April would be dismantled and stored on the hard shoulder in case required in future - was installed between Junctions 8 and 9 on the motorway for the operation's contraflow system.

Legislation for Operation Brock was first put in place in 2019 in preparation for a potential no-deal divorce from Brussels, updated in 2020 before the end of the transition period, and again in 2021 in response to the French border being closed due to fears over the Alpha coronavirus variant - known formerly as the Kent mutation.

Ministers undertook a consultation in May and June to seek views on proposals to "bring Operation Brock within a sustainable long-term traffic management plan", which would involve removing the existing sunset clauses that would otherwise have meant the legislation would have expired by November.

The consultation terms said making the change would mean Operation Brock could continue to be used "in the future as a contingency traffic management measure for disruption" - a move the department said had elicited a "positive" response.

As a result, statutory instruments - legal alterations that do not require new laws to be introduced - stripping the law of its sunset clauses will be laid before Parliament next month and will be debated in both the Commons and the Lords, officials said.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "Operation Brock measures will remain temporary and will only be used when there is a significant risk of delays.

"While Operation Brock was originally created to deal with disruption caused by EU exit and in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, removing the sunset clauses from Operation Brock will mean the Kent Resilience Forum (KRF) is better prepared to respond to any type of traffic disruption in the area, not solely related to EU exit, including strikes and severe weather."