We’re ready for No Deal here in Dover, so let’s call a halt on begging for an Article 50 extension

We’re ready for No Deal here in Dover, so let’s call a halt on begging for an Article 50 extension

It’s time to get on and leave the EU. Great efforts have been made to be prepared. Britain stands ready. In the 2016 referendum, 17.4 million people – including two-thirds of my constituents in Dover and Deal – voted to Leave. Action has been taken to make sure we are as ready as we can be – deal or no deal. The Article 50 extension the Prime Minister is planning to seek at the European Council today is not merely a mistake. For decades to come, it will be seen as a tragic failure of leadership.

The voters knew that leaving the EU would not be easy and that there would be challenges and risks of disruption. They knew that because, during the 2016 EU referendum, that was all the Remain campaign talked about. We were warned of gridlock on the roads to the Channel ports. We were told the Calais Jungle would be moved to Dover. We were even warned of a terrible economic calamity in which millions would lose their jobs and house prices would collapse. Yet despite all these dire warnings, the people still voted to Leave.

Now, two years after notice was served under Article 50, we are as ready to leave as we will ever be. So we should get on with it – not raise a white flag and beg for an Article 50 extension.

Because we are ready at the Dover frontline. Of course, the merchants of Project Fear seek to frighten people with visions of gridlock in Kent and months of disruption if we leave without a deal. Indeed the warnings become ever more fearsome. We will run out of medicines. Aeroplanes won’t not take off. Pets will die in quarantine. Food will run out. We are even told even our water will become poisonous and undrinkable.

With warnings like this, one is left wondering, how on earth did we ever manage these past thousand years? Of course they are nonsense too. First, aircraft flights are subject to global conventions, not an EU one. Second, the poisoned water story has been debunked by Environment Secretary Michael Gove. The medicine panic has been rubbished by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

It’s the same at the Channel ports too. They account for around a third of the UK’s entire trade in goods. There are around 60 sailings to the port of Dover from Dunkirk and Calais every day. The cross-Channel trading route is a huge success story. More than £120 billion of trade moves through Dover’s docks alone.

So will there be gridlock on the roads to our ports? The truth is that it is in everyone’s interests – France’s as well as ours – that traffic continues to flow. The EU sells us £95 billion more in goods than we sell to them. And, despite all the Brexit uncertainty, our economy is growing faster than France’s and Germany’s. Small wonder that Xavier Bertrand, the boss of the Calais region, says they have no intention of holding things up there. As does the chief of the Port of Calais itself. Moreover, Brussels has decreed that the EU Transit Convention will continue to apply. This means that there is no need for any queues at Dover or Calais as few searches or hold-ups would take place. Under the Transit Convention, checks would be undertaken at the place of destination.

Indeed, even if the Transit Convention turned out not to be enough, extra steps have been taken beyond that to make sure we stand ready. A plan has been put to the Department for Transport to ensure that the town of Dover is free of gridlock and that both of Kent’s motorways can be kept open and free-flowing. Strategies for lorry parking on- and off-road have been developed. Extra funds have been agreed for the police so they can devote whatever resources may be required in the event of difficulties.

The Government does not need to seek an Article 50 extension. It can be seen that great efforts have been made to ensure we are ready to leave without a deal. There might be bumps in the road – some of those bumps could even be pretty jarring. Yet we would get through it.

We could have been in a far stronger position of course. Imagine how much better things would be if the Cabinet had put as much effort into preparing for no deal as they have in preparing for talks with the Labour Party to agree a customs union deal, that breaches the 2017 Conservative election manifesto. Imagine they had put as much effort into taking early action as has been put into warning about the possible consequences of inaction. The choice faced by our country would be between no deal and a much better deal – with both options looking more favourable than they do today.

It’s also important to remember that if we leave without a deal we would have extra cash available to help us – some £39 billion – because there is no legal duty to pay more than a fraction of this money to the EU in the absence of an agreement. £39 billion would go a long way to smooth the path of any challenges we may meet.

Britain stood ready in 2016 to make the call for our nation’s independent future. Britain stands ready now. It’s time our Government matched the political courage of the British people. We have discussed Europe for long enough. Today we should not be seeking an Article 50 extension. We should be leaving, deal or no deal.