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Post-Brexit , Issue 1539
BREXIT secretary Michael Gove's uncanny ability to make the worst of a bad job is in full post-transition-period evidence in Kent.

A perfect shitstorm of undelivered infrastructure, flawed IT systems and mushrooming bureaucracy has led to drivers queuing for hours to get out of the country. Last Friday evening, the “inland border facility” at Ashford was reported to be in “total gridlock” – and this was with levels of freight said to be around half typical pre-Brexit levels. Slashing economic activity while drastically increasing the mayhem is quite a double achievement.

Around 80 percent of trucks heading to Calais are “in transit” to countries beyond France, but usually still within the EU. Post-Brexit, this brings a raft of new paperwork and dependency on yet another IT system, the New Computerised Transit System (NCTS). This is actually quite an old system, designed for less voluminous transit beyond the EU's borders, and regularly crashes under the new demands. Trucks turning up for checks then have to wait for it to be fixed – and often still don't meet its complex requirements. Other IT systems that were supposed to have made exporting easier are yet to be seen.

Arse and elbow
IT trouble is far from the only source of delay. Often lorries in transit don't have a “comprehensive customs guarantee” from a financier who says that if the goods don't reach their destination, they will cough up the VAT and customs duty that becomes due along the way. Without this, lorries have to turn around, park up and (expensively) arrange it.

All this happens at Waterbrook Park, an inadequate industrial estate pressed into service because the 1,700-capacity lorry park next door isn't ready– despite the four and a half years' notice (although drivers are sent their for the compulsory Covid testing that isn't helping, either). Drivers who often don't speak English address outsourced “border operators” (Mitie is recruiting at £10 per hour) who, one customs adviser says, “don't know their arse from their elbow”. With lorries sent around the park in a “joke” traffic management system, gridlock often ensues.

Sunlit uplands
The prophylactic to border chaos was supposed to have been Gove's Kent Access Permit, known as the Kermit, preventing lorries entering Kent without the right paperwork on pain of a £300 fine. This turns out to be another joke. By answering “yes” to a few online questions, Kermits are available without any evidence of the documents (the Eye's hack obtained one for a fictional HGV in two minutes). Hauliers are simply vouching for having the paperwork before they get it, so that they set off on their journeys rather than wait a few expensive hours. Too often they then hit the customs and border point without what's needed.

The harm to trade is growing. Logistics companies DB Schenker, DPD and Palletways have all “paused” imports into the UK to avoid delays and costs coming back the other way, while the Road Haulage Association tells the Eye that hauliers are turning down import jobs and sending lorries out of the UK empty rather than get mired in Kafkaesque scenes at Ashford. Quite a result for Britain's four Brexit ministers since 2016 and the £100m-plus they spent on management consultants preparing for those sunlit uplands.

More top stories in the latest issue:

The management of satellite firm OneWeb and the identity of the government's co-investors don't bode well for hopes of an advanced positioning system.

Post-Brexit problems with health checks and customs documents are another cruel blow for Scotland's independent creel fishermen.

Two pensioners who each stood up to bullying by unscrupulous park home owners in the courts have both won their cases.

The governing body at Christ Church, Oxford, has voted to initiate a second tribunal in a latest attempt to force out the dean, Martyn Percy.

Another senior fire officer has set up his own business venture outside his well-paid day job, the Eye has learned – this time it's Staffordshire's deputy chief.

The Department for Transport claims the UK's self-driving vehicles market will reach £42bn by 2035 – but progress has stalled and targets have been missed.

Health officials have been quietly stashing in the National Archives hundreds of thousands of documents related to the contaminated blood scandal.

Northern Ireland's health minister has finally announced a public inquiry into patient deaths and potential misdiagnosis by a Belfast consultant neurologist.

A young autistic man with high care needs died from alcohol misuse after a hospital failed to admit him for emergency detoxification, an inquest has found.

To read all these stories in full, please buy issue 1539 of Private Eye - you can subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale: 3rd March 2021
Private Eye Issue 1539
In This Issue
Nation in shock as vaccine roll-out goes quite well… UK government shuts stable door at border 10 months after horse has bolted… Mr Bumble 'defends workhouse food rations'… Afghanistan offers peace-keeping troops to Washington to save failed state… Opening soon near Vegas – The Trump Presidential Library, Casino & Strip Club… Only real Daleks can play Daleks, insists Doctor Who creator… The Rt Hon Michael Gove, as told to Craig Brown

EU jabs
Now Brussels feels the needle

Bloody cheek
The tainted blood cover-up continues

Slicker's tribute to the late Sir David Barclay

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3rd March 2021
Private Eye Issue 1538