The M20 could see lorries parked up along its hard shoulder for many years after Brexit as traffic issues at the Port of Dover may not be solved until 2023 at the earliest, councils have warned.
Leaked internal Brexit impact reports from two Conservative-run local councils reveal fears that Operation Stack - the conversion of four lanes of the M20 motorway into a 13-mile (20km) long lorry park - might have to be implemented for years after Brexit.
The central issue is the potential for the Channel Tunnel or cross-Channel ferry routes to see new customs or regulatory checks after Brexit, something the Government appears to be preparing for under 'Operation Brock'.
This plan, which is already underway, would enable four lanes of the southbound carriageway of a 13-mile stretch of the M20, between Maidstone and Ashford, to be converted into a lorry park for 2,000 vehicles. The northbound carriageway would use a contraflow system of two lanes each for ordinary traffic in both directions.
Hard shoulders along the route are soon to be strengthened to sustain the weight of hundreds of parked articulated lorries.
Dover District Council expressed deep concern that more had not been done following the chaos at the Channel Tunnel in 2015 due industrial action, which led to Operation Stack being first implemented.
A 'permanent solution will not be in place for many years... the "temporary" traffic-management system Operation Brock will be in force for some time', the council wrote in a report leaked to Sky News.
And a separate report from Kent County Council said it anticipated the planning application for any major permanent lorry park would not even be considered until next year and could not be delivered 'until 2023 at the earliest'.
Sky News reports that Kent County Council told the Government this 'is not only frustrating but potentially damaging to the UK economy as well as disrupting the daily life of Kent residents and visitors'.
The UK is set to leave the EU on 29th March 2019. and the councils seem unconvinced preparations to mitigate what insiders have described as potential 'chaos' will be in place.
The Government's so-called Chequers plan for Brexit, includes a common framework for goods and food that would avoid the need to instigate new border checks. However it is still unclear if the EU will accept the plan.