Lorries have begun to arrive at Dover after the first practice run from Manston Airport in Kent as part of the British government’s first major test of its plans for UK border disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Known as Operation Brock, designed to test out the disused airfield near Ramsgate as a mass holding bay to ease congestion, the Heavy Goods Vehicles lined up on the runway before following a route in convoy from 8am, and again at 11am, to Dover.
The first convoy arrived in Dover at 8.52am.
The 32km journey usually takes around 30 minutes depending on traffic.
Up to 150 lorries were initially anticipated to take part. So far 89 have been involved, the Department for Transport confirmed after the first test this morning.
The plans emerged last week after the DfT and council sent letters to hauliers explaining this was to “establish the safest optimum release rate of HGVs”.
The test comes as British MPs resume the debate on Prime Minister’s Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal agreement ahead of a planned vote on the deal next week
A debate on the plan will begin on Wednesday, with a vote, which had been deferred in December, due to take place next week.
Mrs May will meet MPs in the coming days as she seeks to convince them to support her deal.
But there is no sign yet that the prime minister has persuaded enough MPs to back the withdrawal agreement.
The UK is set to leave the EU on 29 March.
A UK-wide public information campaign will also be launched this week illustrating what a no-deal Brexit could mean.
Separately, 209 MPs from across the Commons have signed a letter to Mrs May urging her to rule out a no-deal Brexit.
The letter was organised by Tory former Cabinet minister Caroline Spelman and Labour’s Jack Dromey.
All signatories to the letter have been invited to meet the prime minister in Downing Street tomorrow.
The meeting is one of a series being organised by Mrs May, who is also hosting drinks receptions for Tory MPs today and on Wednesday as part of a charm offensive to win support for the Brexit deal.
Over the weekend, Mrs May told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that Britain would be in “uncharted territory” if her Brexit deal is rejected by parliament.
Mrs May said the vote in parliament would be around 15 January, despite newspaper reports that she could delay it.
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said over the weekend that while it would be in Ireland’s interests to see the withdrawal agreement accepted, ultimately, it is a decision for the British parliament at Westminster.
Speaking during his visit to Mali in Africa Mr Varadkar said: “You have to weigh up on the one hand our desire to see it ratified with the possibility that that could backfire if we were trying to tell another parliament, another country, how they should vote.”