Ministers have been accused of building a “pointless lorry park in Kent”, after announcing a whopping £700m for carrying out post-Brexit trade checks.
Michael Gove said it was not “the intention” for the new clearance centre – a 27-acre site secretly bought in Kent – to become a parking spot for trucks delayed at Dover and other ports.
Instead, he insisted the cash would “create the smart infrastructure that, in Kent and elsewhere, will allow the trade to flow”.
But Peter Ricketts, a former national security adviser, protested: “This is all so pointless. We are creating a vast customs bureaucracy, with costs passed on to the consumer.”
And Labour’s Rachel Reeves said, of Boris Johnson’s recent investment promises: “I thought that was going to mean hospitals, railways and new schools around the country – not investment in a new lorry park in Kent.”
Work to fence off the vast site on the outskirts of Ashford, in Kent, will begin on Monday, with the local council given just hours' notice that the land was now in public ownership.
The move is part of more than £700m to be spent, with £470m going on infrastructure such as border control posts and £235m on computer systems and extra staff, including 500 extra Border Force personnel.
The checks will be necessary even if the UK avoids crashing out of the transition period without a deal, because even an agreement will prevent the free-flow of goods that takes place now.
When the 2016 referendum was held, Brexit campaigners repeatedly denied such checks would be required – but now describe them as inevitable, under the prime minister's clean-break exit deal.