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Traffic easing

Brexit chaos avoided as lorry flows ‘back to normal’

lorries at Dover

Lorries queuing at the Dover port at the turn of the year

A cross Channel Brexit meltdown appears to have been avoided, according to government sources who say overall freight flows have returned to the same levels as last year.

Internal figures show outbound roll-on roll-off lorry traffic for Great Britain for the month so far at 98% of last February’s levels, according to a report. Inbound traffic is at 99% of last year’s levels.

This contrasts with worst-case fears of disruption from queues of thousands of lorries.

One official said the government is “pleased that overall flows are back to normal”.

About 80-90% of laden lorries are arriving border-ready.


Larger manufacturing firms in particular appear to have taken advantage of new systems designed to prepare loads for the border on leaving premises and officials say they are pleased that overall flows are back to normal.

However, when all port traffic and the Channel Tunnel is included the figures show a notable rise in the number of empty lorries returning from Great Britain to the European Union, and specific industries have been disproportionately affected.

Lorry traffic on the crossing from Kent to the EU on ferries and via the Channel Tunnel in January was 67% of the same month in 2020, and 82% in February. Some of this is attributed to Christmas stockpiling ahead of the transition deadline.

It is estimated that as many as half of lorries are returning to the EU empty. Industry sources say the normal level is between at 25-30%.

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The Government’s data on lorries turning back due to the wrong documentation is now below 2.5%, having been closer to 8% in the first days of the new regime.

A fall in rexports of clothing and apparel is attributed mainly to lower orders during the Covid lockdown.

But the fall in food, agriculture and sea fish exports is the impact of the post-Brexit transition period and continues to cause some concern.

The government has recently announced a £23m package of grants to help those affected, though the seafood industry says many firms are ineligible to claim.

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