Britain Braces for Logistics Havoc as Brexit’s Final Act Looms

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

By The Wall Street Journal

This article was originally published in The Wall Street Journal November 29, 2020. We are sharing for two reasons: 1) it provides important information for companies doing business in the U.K. and 2) it is an example of policy (or in this case lack of policy) affecting the efficacy of supply chains.

The U.K. faces a logistics nightmare that could bring delays and shortages in essential goods after the country completes its exit from the European Union at the beginning of next year.

On Jan. 1, the free movement of goods across the English Channel is due to end for the first time in half a century. The change has sparked fears of severe bottlenecks at British ports and highways, where customs officers will inspect trucks amid an acute lack of staff that could rattle supply chains.

Some 10,000 trucks cross the channel on ferries each day, moving about half of all goods between the U.K. and the continent while dozens of daily sailings move freight mainly between Dover on the British side and the French ports of Calais and Dunkirk.

“The problem is that you have to stop things,” said Richard Ballantyne, chief executive of the British Ports Association, a trade body. “Both the driver and the cargo will require documentation and if you queue up, you would immediately face congestion and delays.”

Officials at the Port of Dover estimate that for every two minutes of delay each truck has to spend at the crossing, a 17-mile traffic jam will be created on the M20 highway heading to the port.