Kent Police Brexit Preparation Revealed

27 March 2019, 12:29 | Updated: 27 March 2019, 12:31


Up to 140 police officers a day could be drafted into Kent to deal with traffic chaos anticipated by Brexit.

As well as helping to manage the "complex" travel arrangements including the contraflow and reduced speed limits on the M20 under Operation Brock, officers could also tasked be with tackling protests and disorder should it arise, Kent Police Assistant Chief Constable Peter Ayling said.

The force is thought to be the only one to be handed extra money by the Government to police Brexit as Kent is thought most likely to be affected.

The Home Office has given it £4.3 million so far, and more could be handed over in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Speaking at a press briefing in Maidstone on Tuesday, Mr Ayling said: "We have been able to benefit from the mobilisation of additional officers into Kent so in the event we do exit from the EU up to 140 officers a day are likely to be brigaded into Kent from across the UK to help us manage what is a fairly complex traffic management plan."

A "significant" number of officers in the force could also have to focus on Brexit, but exact numbers are not being disclosed.

Mr Ayling, a member of emergency planning group the Kent Resilience Forum and chairman of the committee which is preparing the county's response to Brexit, said: "We saw at the weekend Brexit has a fairly polarising effect on people and whatever side of the debate you're on, it's an emotive issue.

"We're prepared that we can respond to any issues that emerge. So far we've not seen that move towards disorder, but if it were to do so we've got the resources, we've got the capability to be able to respond.

"I think one of the real challenges for us in Kent, it's very difficult to predict exactly what it is we will have to deal with.

"I'm pretty confident we are not going to see opportunities for rises in crime."

The force previously banned officers from taking leave throughout April, but this has been relaxed since the date of Brexit was delayed."

Fiona Gaffney, the forum's Brexit co-ordinator, said daily meetings will take place from April 8, but the county was "ready to respond" whatever the outcome.

She said the first day of a no-deal Brexit would be the "worst case scenario" and the disruption could last up to six months, adding: "That will involve a situation where we are stepping into the unknown."

Indecision in Government and Parliament had been "a little bit frustrating", she said, but the group always knew it had to plan for no-deal, adding: "What's going on in Parliament is all very important but it's almost like white noise to me."

Warnings issued to teachers who may need to care for stranded children while their parents are stuck in congestion was a "sensible precaution", she added.

Kent generally sees around 10,000 lorries a day crossing the Channel.

Operation Brock was introduced on Monday for the foreseeable future, billed as a temporary solution and an alternative to avoid closing the motorway to queue lorries under Operation Stack.

John Kerner, Highways England project director, dismissed criticism the plan was inflexible and outdated, saying the contraflow was working "as designed".

He said Brock was "the right intervention at the right time" and a "prudent measure" which could last up to six months in its current form.

Highways England was handed £35 million to bring in the plans as well as a back-up which would see lorries queue on the M26.

Work to prepare Manston airfield to be used as a giant lorry park as part of the operation is ongoing - with portaloos and other facilities being set up on the site this week.