MANSTON (Reuters) – Britain’s government sent a convoy of 87 trucks on a test-run from a little-used airport to the country’s main trading gateway to continental Europe yesterday – a rehearsal for the upheaval of a no-deal Brexit that was mocked as a clumsy waste of money.
Prime Minister Theresa May is trying to force her Brexit deal through parliament. If it is rejected as expected, however, business chiefs and investors fear the world’s fifth-largest economy will leave the European Union without an agreement on their future relationship at 2300 GMT on March 29.
With lawmakers deadlocked, the ultimate destination of the Brexit project remains unclear. Possible outcomes range from another referendum on European Union membership to a disorderly departure with no deal.
Ms May’s government has repeatedly warned that a no deal will lead to severe economic disruption, and Monday’s exercise was part of preparations to ensure essential supplies can keep flowing through Dover, Europe’s busiest ferry port.
The transport ministry said it was testing Manston airfield as a holding facility for lorries and traffic congestion on Kent roads in the event of disruption at the border.
Setting off from Manston, 87 trucks drove the 20 miles (32 km) to Dover and then back again. They repeated the run later.
“Less than a hundred lorries is a drop in the ocean compared to the more than 10,000 that go to the channel ports every day,” said Charlie Elphicke, a Conservative lawmaker for Dover.
“Sending lorries across Kent on a wild goose chase to Manston airport and then to the port of Dover by small and winding, often single track ‘A roads’ through Kent villages is not the right plan.”
Dover has been Britain’s most important gateway to Europe since Roman times and the port now handles 17 percent of the United Kingdom’s goods trade.