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It is a common refrain among political sketch writers that writing satire is virtually dead – simply transcribe the speeches of Trump or Johnson, or for that matter Liz Truss (CHEESE!) – and you’re done; the laughs, or tears, generate themselves.
And so to the UK government’s solution to its Brexit doom scenario of 7,000-strong lorry queues to Dover next year: the Kent Access Permit, or KAP.
Let’s just put an R in that abbreviation, and another bit of satire’s done.
Only that would be a disservice to a freight industry scratching its head as to how to comply with half-baked – literally, to borrow millennial vernacular – regulations, with the knowledge that should it fail, or should KAP prove indeed to be crap, the government will blame hauliers and forwarders “for being unprepared”.
Another common refrain this year has been that the pandemic has demonstrated the true colour of people and organisations – and it has become increasingly clear that the UK government’s number-one priority appears to be avoiding responsibility for anything it does, indeed, foisting a woefully managed Brexit process on an economy battered by Covid is just another item on that list.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove, the man responsible for managing Brexit, says KAP will be enforced “through policing, ANPR cameras and other means” in a leaked border delivery document, which also proposes fining truckers without the right paperwork – this so-called Kent passport – £300.
What will happen? Will police turn trucks around in the middle of the motorway to Dover? Will they park them in some massive freight internment camp in Ashford or elsewhere in Kent (there don’t seem to be many other options)? Or will they just bill them later, like a parking ticket or speeding fine?
On the admin side, how are hauliers supposed to apply for a KAP? Does one KAP fit all shipments (pun intended; back of the net!) or will a new KAP be required for each journey?
The principle of the KAP is fine – it’s just that, with so little time left before Brexit actually happens, does anyone seriously have any confidence the government is able to deliver a working system?
And whatever the answer to these questions, there are two obvious further points: firstly, doesn’t Kent Police already have enough on its hands; and secondly, hooray for yet more documentation and another layer of bureaucracy for the freight industry to manage on top of all those millions of customs declarations it is just itching to fill out?
Maybe the government is just lining up to borrow an old joke from Yes Minister: “Red tape – it holds the nation together”.