The idea of drivers being stuck in lorry queues in Kent post-Brexit was routinely dismissed by Brexiteers as just another slur of “Project Fear”.
“There is another one that the opposition are constantly telling us about, which is that there will be lorries queuing all the way back from Dover. I am not quite sure how that would work because it would mean that they were queuing in the sea,” John Redwood told the House of Commons in November 2017, suggesting, perhaps, that he did not really understand how queues worked.
“The opposition are always running things down,” he added. “My worry about these sectoral studies is that there is a tendency amongst some government advisers and consultants to want to highlight every conceivable thing that could go wrong.” That, of course, is the job of government advisers and consultants.
Even by early 2021 – not long after the UK’s formal exit from the EU, when panicked businesses attempted to stockpile goods and a 17-mile queue of stationary lorries was reportedly visible from space – they continued to dismiss the problems. It was just the “Brexit bedwetters” the Daily Express approvingly quoted Martin Daubney, an ex-Brexit Party MEP, now a GB News presenter, as saying.
January 2023, and it emerges the government has signed a £200,000-a-year contract with a disaster response charity to help those drivers stuck in queues.
The Department for Transport has enlisted RE:ACT, more used to aid missions in South Africa, Mozambique and Ukraine than the UK, to supply food and water to queues of vehicles on approach roads to Dover and the Channel Tunnel if drivers are at a standstill for two days. The plans, according to the Guardian, which first reported them, anticipates drivers being forced once again this year to queue on the M20 for more than 48 hours at a stretch.
Nick Smith, the Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent, said: “The government’s incompetence around the border has resulted in them having to bring in companies more used to providing humanitarian support for people in war zones and in the aftermath of natural disasters.”
And the SNP’s EU Accession spokesperson, Alyn Smith said: “Whilst this is undoubtedly the right thing to do, it should never have come to this.”
From the likes of Redwood, who yesterday was instead fulminating over the decision to overturn the privatisation of Channel 4, and his fellow Brexiteers, nothing.
And why would they? They were concerned government advisers were focusing on things which could go wrong. The result was the humiliation of a government calling in a charity more used to dealing with far-flung natural disasters than one entirely of its own making.