The meeting of the European Council in Brussels this week will be central to the Government’s plan to deliver Brexit by 31st October. At the time of writing this column it appears that genuine progress is being made to agree a new deal with the European Union which would be acceptable to us and therefore far more likely to win the support of parliament. If Boris Johnson can secure a deal which delivers Brexit for the whole of the UK, establishes that we will be outside of the EU Customs Union and Single Market, and removes the ‘backstop’ provisions which sought to lock us indefinitely into European Union rules, then he will have my full support. I believe that we need to deliver on Brexit so that we can move on as a country. If we were to have a second referendum, which I would not support, it will lead to more delay and acrimony.
Whilst I hope we can get an agreement in place to deliver Brexit, it is right that the Government continues with its contingency planning in case we leave at the end of October without a deal. Next week there will be further works completed to make sure that Kent is ready in case there are delays in lorries leaving the country through the Port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel. On the night of 26/27th October the M20 between junctions 7 to 9 on the London-bound carriageway will be closed. The coast-bound carriageway will though remain unaffected. This will ensure Operation Brock can be implemented safely, meaning that from the morning of Monday 28 October, traffic will be using the contraflow system. In addition, Highways England will be making sections of the new M20 junction 10a available to traffic on 31st October. This will help traffic move more smoothly through the junction and create a new, quicker coastbound route from the Ashford Truckstop. These measures mean that we will be ready on day one should there be a problem. In the past when Operation Stack has been put in place, it has been in response to an incident which has caused delays, whereas this time we will be ready just in case. Of course, we all hope that this is not necessary and that the roads can return to normal as soon as possible. Local residents will also note that unlike with past cases of Operation Stack, there are no plans this time to close the M20 between junctions 10 and 11, as the lorries will be held further west and at Manston Airport if required.
Last week I met with representatives from the Post Office to discuss the future of postal services in Dymchurch. There has been considerable local concern that when the current post master retires there may be no-one to take over the Post Office and that this valuable service will be lost to the local community. The Post Office have stressed to me their commitment to retain the service currently provided in Dymchurch and have been advertising for people to come forward who would be interested in delivering this in the future. I have also asked for the Post Office to meet with me in Dymchurch to discuss how a plan can be put in place to make sure that residents will continue to receive this vital service.