The British government is warning there could be lines of up to 7,000 trucks waiting to cross the English Channel into France immediately after the Brexit transition period expires at the end of this year.
Michael Gove, the minister in charge of Brexit preparations, described that situation as a worst-case scenario in a letter sent to logistics firms, estimating that between 30% and 50% of trucks hoping to cross the busy trade route may not be ready for new paperwork and regulations that will come into effect Jan. 1.
“This could lead to maximum queues of 7,000 port-bound trucks in Kent and associated maximum delays of up to two days,” the document said, according to the Associated Press.
And the delays could last at least three months until companies get used to the new systems and requirements, the letter adds.
The U.K. withdrew from the European Union’s political institutions on Jan. 31 but remains in a tariff-free transition period until the end of the year while negotiators try to work out a future trade relationship.
Even with a deal, Britain will be leaving the bloc’s single market and customs union, meaning some new checks and trade barriers. Without a deal there will be much greater disruption, with the U.K. and the E.U. having to slap tariffs on each others’ goods, the Associated Press reports.
Haulage and logistics companies have accused the British government of being unprepared for the changes coming in just over three months. The government’s Smart Freight system, designed to reduce the risk of cargo delays, will still be in a testing phase in January, while work to recruit and train 50,000 new customs workers is not finished.
“We’ve been consistently warning the government that there will be delays at ports, but they’re just not engaging with industry on coming up with solutions,” Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett said.
The E.U. and the U.K. say a deal must be struck by October so it can be approved and ratified before Jan. 1. But negotiators remain at loggerheads on key issues, especially European fishing boats’ access to U.K. waters and competition rules for businesses.
Chief E.U. negotiator Michel Barnier is due to hold talks with his British counterpart, David Frost, in London Wednesday ahead of a ninth formal round of negotiations next week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.