- Chris Grayling insists Brexit will not lead to increased checks on Britain’s borders.
- “We don’t check lorries now, we’re not going to be checking lorries in the future,” the transport secretary said.
- The government’s plan to leave the single market and customs union will create increased checks, according to international law.
LONDON – Chris Grayling has claimed there will not “in any circumstances” be increased checks on Britain’s borders after Brexit, despite its planned departure from the European single market and customs union.
Speaking on Question Time on Thursday night, the transport secretary insisted there would be no “hard border” at Dover under any Brexit scenario, including defaulting to World Trade Organisation rules.
“We will maintain a free-flowing border at Dover, we will not impose checks at the port, it is utterly unrealistic to do so,” the Brexit-voting Conservative minister told audience members.
“We don’t check lorries now, we’re not going to be checking lorries in the future.”
Grayling’s claim put him at odds with the overwhelming majority of academics and industry leaders, who say international law means there will be at least some additional checks on Britain’s borders after Brexit.
This is because leaving the customs union will end the universal tariff-free trade of goods and services between the UK and EU while leaving the single market will create new standard and compliance checks for goods crossing the border.
In response to Grayling, the European Parliament’s vice president, Mairead McGuiness, asked Grayling: “So you’re not leaving [the European Union]?”
Prime Minister Theresa May has publicly accepted that leaving the single market will mean the end of unlimited, frictionless access to EU markets.
“The reality is we all need to face up to some hard facts. We are leaving the single market, our access to each other’s markets will be less than it is now,” May said in her latest Brexit speech earlier this month.
Before Christmas, Britain’s Freight Transport Association warned that leaving the European Union with no deal in place would unleash “disorganisation and chaos” on the port of Dover.
“If you add an average of two minutes to customs processing, you get a 17-mile queue [from Dover] almost back to Ashford,”the group’s deputy chief executive, James Hookham, said.
“Another four minutes takes the queue back to Maidstone, six minutes back to the M25, eight minutes and you are up to the Dartford crossing and Essex.”
Labour MP Stephen Doughty said Grayling’s “startling” remarks showed the government’s Brexit planning was in chaos.
Doughty, a supporter of anti-hard Brexit group Open Britain, said:
“The Transport Secretary has just made a startling admission: he says the Government just won’t bother checking trucks coming into Dover post-Brexit. So much for taking back control.
“The Government’s new position on the chaos their Brexit red lines threaten to create at the border seems to be to just turn a blind eye to everything.
“If the cost of Brexit is to totally abandon control of our borders, then everyone is entitled to ask if it’s the right path for the country.”