In Dover, Uncertainty but Hope as Brexit Approaches

Dover, United Kingdom, Dec 31 (AFP/APP): The White Cliffs of Dover, which on a clear day are visible from France less than 30 miles (50 kilometres) across the Channel, have long been a symbol of Britain.

Now, the nearby town, which can trace its history back to Roman times, and its busy port are on the frontline as Britain embarks on a new future outside the European Union. A last-gasp trade deal between London and Brussels, signed only on Christmas Eve, has averted fears of tariffs and quotas that could have severely disrupted trade. But people in Dover say they still fear gridlock from January 1, as customs checks and more paperwork for European travel and trade are reintroduced for the first time in decades.

“I’m a little bit nervous about it, being a local resident,” Kirk Hughes, an IT worker, told AFP as Britain prepared to leave the European single market at 2300 GMT on Thursday. “We’ve had the disruption before and my wife works (22 miles away) in Ashford, so getting in and out of Dover at some times is an absolute nightmare.”

Hughes predicted “a couple of weeks” of traffic chaos as the new rules kick in, after decades of seamless cross-Channel trade. Over Christmas, queues of lorries backed up for miles (kilometres) on the M20 motorway into Dover, as European nations shut their borders to traffic from Britain. The jams, caused by fears of the spread of a new, potentially more contagious variant of the coronavirus, have now cleared after rapid testing of drivers was introduced.

But there are still dozens of lorries waiting on the tarmac of the disused Manston airfield, north of Dover, which has been designated as an overspill facility in case of congestion. Thousands of lorries spent days there last week as drivers waited for tests and for the borders to reopen, giving Britain a glimpse of potential problems ahead.

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