Lorries transporting fish and shellfish to the continent will be “prioritised” at UK ports following the end of the Brexit transition, Michael Gove has said.
The pledge came amid warnings exporters will face 7,000-truck-long queues in Kent and two-day delays to trade from January.
According to leaked Cabinet Office documents, without a free trade deal and in its reasonable worst-case scenario, there may be “maximum queues of 7,000 port-bound trucks in Kent and associated maximum delays of up to two days”.
“Both imports and exports could be disrupted to a similar extent,” it states.
Mr Gove, who is responsible for no-deal planning, told MPs: “We will be making sure that we prioritise fish and shellfish from Scottish harbours in order to make sure that they reach the fish market in Boulogne without impediment.”
The comments came in response to Perth MP Pete Wishart, who branded the Brexit plans “madness”.
“Today’s the day where all the Brexit chickens come home to roost, only of course they won’t because they’ll be sitting in a 7,000-strong lorry queue in a Kent motorway for two days waiting to be dispatched,” he said.
“I remember the days of the ‘easiest deal in history’, ‘having our cake and eating it’ while observing the sunny uplands. But even the Duchy (Michael Gove) himself told us that we hold all the cards.
“Well, it seems the only card we hold at the moment is the joker with his Spitting Image mush all over the front of it.”
Mr Gove hit back, saying: “As we take back control of our waters, access to marine resources enables Scotland to get thousands of new jobs, millions in new investment.
“Sadly, the Scottish Government have taken the view that they wish to re-enter the European Union, give up access to that bounty and to sell the coastal communities of Scotland short, I think that’s probably a mistake.”
The comments came as Mr Gove revealed only a quarter of UK businesses are ready for the end of the Brexit transition period in less than four months’ time.
The Cabinet Office minister told MPs a government survey had found that while 78% of businesses had taken some steps to prepare for breaking away from EU trading rules on January 1, just 24% said they were fully ready.
Truckers heading to the border will need to secure a “Kent Access Permit” by completing paperwork before being allowed to enter the county, effectively creating a de facto internal border.
“We want to make sure that people use a relatively simple process in order to get what will become known as a Kent Access Permit, which means that they can then proceed smoothly, because they do have the material required,” Mr Gove said.
“If they don’t have the material required, then it will be the case that through policing, ANPR cameras and other means, we’ll do our very best to ensure that constituents are not inconvenienced.”