Transport Secretary is Misguided on Dover Port Inspections

16 March 2018, Ross Matthewman

Following comments on last night’s Question Time by the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling MP, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), has expressed dismay at an apparent lack of understanding of the issue.

Responding to a question from the audience about the potential for miles of gridlock in and around Dover following the UK’s exit from the EU, Mr Grayling intimated that this would not happen as the Government would simply stop port inspections to speed things up.

Recent estimations suggest that there would be 20-mile long permanent traffic jams from Dover if no transition arrangement between the UK and EU can be reached.

Currently, internal market arrangements mean that food being imported to the UK via the 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 tailbacks and delays will appear on the first day post-Brexit.

The potential for gridlock raises significant questions over inspections and 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.

Tony Lewis, Head of Policy and CIEH, said:

“Mr Grayling’s comments are deeply worrying as it suggests the Government simply does not have an adequate understanding of the purpose and importance of port health inspection work.

Inspections ensure that food coming into the UK is what it says it is, is safe to eat, and meets all of our standards. They are vital in maintaining food safety in our country.

Simply allowing vehicles to roll through our ports unchecked is real public health risk and one that will just encourage criminality and food fraud.

The lack of appreciation for this from the Secretary of State is exasperating, and it is time the Government started taking post-Brexit border and port health issues seriously.

CIEH strongly urges the Government to engage with Port Health professionals and to work with us to ensure that appropriate protections are in place to secure public health following Brexit.”


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.  

For more information visit and follow the CIEH on Twitter.