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Gale's View - 03/07/2019

July 3rd 2019


On Monday of this week the Tory Party leadership candidate and aspirant Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. Johnson, made a campaigning visit to West Kent. Asked what would happen to traffic in the County in the event of a “No Deal” Brexit on October 31st he replied that “I don`t think that we shall end up in that place”. Pressed by BBC Radio Kent`s political reporter, Caroline Williams, Mr Johnson then added that “we shall just have to work our way through it”.

“Working our way through it” is, those who bear the scars of the last great “Stack” Operation will recall, precisely what Kent was not able to do. As traffic piled up on the County`s motorways leading to the ports and the Channel Tunnel NHS staff, schoolteachers, local delivery vans and all manner of working people were unable to go about their lawful business. Kent and the Department for Transport have learned from that experience and many months of contingency planning have been put into the “Operation Brock” that will come into force in response to road haulage jams that may be generated on both sides of the Channel by a failure to reach an agreement and a consequent accidental or possibly deliberate leaving of the EU without a deal on October 31st.

My personal view has been and remains that if the continental “logistics” companies that make up 80% of the cross channel freight traffic perceive likely hold-ups in the UK then given the shortage of truck drivers available throughout Europe we may, far from facing traffic jams, find ourselves with no freight traffic and no goods at all. Faced with a choice between, say, a clear run from Berlin to Barcelona or a delayed trip from Berlin to Birmingham and a cost of £250 per vehicle per day while lorries sit doing nothing in a road block it is a “no-brainer”.

My real concern, and the one that Tory Members contemplating voting for Mr. Johnson might care to consider, however, is that the man who covets the job of leading our country should be so ill informed. It is inconceivable, is it not, that prior to his visit to West Kent he was not briefed about one of the most significant issues arising from Brexit that might, in the immediate future, face the County. He seems to have learned nothing of Operation Brock or of what I believe may prove to be a futile waste of public money spent transforming Manston Airport into a temporary lorry park. Mr. Johnson`s grasp of detail, as exemplified by his disastrous intervention, while Foreign Secretary, in the case of Mrs Nazanin Zahari Ratcliffe, the young mother still languishing in an Iranian Prison, appears to be minimal. A “broad brush” approach to politics is one thing. Laziness and carelessness in a Prime Minister is something completely different and ought to be born in mind as the ballot papers land on Tory doormats later this week.

It is arguable that a re-negotiated withdrawal deal may not be achievable by anybody at all but if anyone can pull it off, with a new team, and also convince Brussels that he can sell it to the House of Commons then that man is Jeremy Hunt. His negotiating skills, acquired in business and honed at the Department of Health and more recently in the Foreign Office, give him the edge. While he is right to say that although it is not his preferred option he will, if necessary, leave the EU with no agreement on October 31st, it is clearly in our national interests, both short and longer term, that we try to strike the elusive deal and to go on trying until it becomes clear that the game is over. The prospect of a `lost generation` of young Britons paying the price of EU and British failure while we try to get to grips with the ensuing post No Deal trade and relationship shambles is not attractive.

As I have said before this is not `Love Island` or `Strictly Come Dancing`. We are not charged with the duty, even, of picking a Leader of the Opposition. The man that we select and vote for has to have the determination, the vision, the strength of personal character and the courage to walk through the door of Number Ten, pick up the reins and start driving our Country in the right direction. I trust Jeremy Hunt as the man of choice most able to fulfil that task and that is why, from day one, I have been backing him to the hilt and will continue to do so.

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