CIEH Calls on Government to Clarify Ports and Borders Plans

16 February 2018, Ross Matthewman

Following the warning from Maritime UK that there will be permanent traffic jams around Dover if no transition agreement is reached with the EU following Brexit, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has again called on the Government to clarify its position on ports and borders post-Brexit.

Maritime UK, the organisation representing the shipping industry and ports, yesterday declared that there would be 20-mile long permanent traffic jams from Dover if no transition arrangement can be reached.

The potential gridlock raises significant questions over food imports to the United Kingdom, and increases the urgency for the UK Government to set out how trade with the EU, and frictionless borders, will continue with the UK outside the Single Market and Customs Union.

CIEH Head of Policy, Tony Lewis, said:

We have been strongly raising concerns about this issue for some time in respect of food imports and future trade agreements.

Currently, internal market arrangements mean that food being imported to the UK from EU countries via the Northern Ireland border and Channel ports pass through checks in about 2 minutes, provided that paperwork is correct. 

In the absence of a transition period, and subsequent trade agreement, that maintains these arrangements there is serious concern that massive tailbacks and delays will appear on the first day post-Brexit. Even doubling the inspection time to 4 mins will generate substantial gridlock.

The reality, however, is that imported food checks and sampling to ensure that incoming food meets our standards will take much longer than a few minutes and could take days if the results of laboratory sampling is awaited. Over and above tailbacks at the ports, this will mean that the fresh food industry that currently operates on a ‘just in time’ basis may well see food rotting on the quay and shortages in the shops.

It is essential that the Government provides clarity on this issue at the earliest possible time to allow for the industry and port health services to enact appropriate measures and for public health to be protected.”

CIEH Northern Ireland Director, Gary McFarlane, added:

“This issue brings home the importance of getting the Irish border question settled as soon as possible.

If the UK is not going to remain in either the Single Market or the EU Customs Union after Brexit, the Government simply has to clarify how it is going to maintain the current frictionless border in Ireland and give peace of mind to businesses and communities.”


Notes to editors

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About the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH):   

CIEH is the professional voice for environmental health representing more than 8,000 members working in the public, private and non-profit sectors. It ensures the highest standards of professional competence in its members, in the belief that through environmental health action people's health can be improved. 

Environmental health has an important and unique contribution to make to improving public health and reducing health inequalities. CIEH campaigns to ensure that government policy addresses the needs of communities and business in achieving and maintaining improvements to health and health protection.  

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