Did You Know
Did You Know
DOVER: Lorries trundle past a mural depicting a man chipping away at an EU flag in the British port town of Dover, where most residents are determined to see Brexit through despite the economic risks.
With one year to go until Britain's planned exit on Mar 29, 2019, there are fears in this gateway to Europe of long tailbacks because of additional customs red tape.
But the mood is mostly defiant in Dover, where 62 per cent voted in favour of leaving the European Union in a 2016 referendum - far higher than the national tally of 52 percent.
"It was the right decision to vote to get out," Sofia Cairns, who moved to Britain from Poland 37 years ago, told reporters in one of the southeastern English town's squares.
"God established these borders for each country and that's how it should stay," she said.
Outside his home, another Brexit supporter, Michael O'Leary, said he was confident that any disruption to the trade traffic that is the town's lifeblood would be only temporary.
"I think it's going to gridlock for a while, but all these things are solved," he said.
"I think in the long run, 50 years down the line ... I think that it will have all been solved, and all problems are political," said O'Leary, voicing hope for increased trade with non-EU British allies such as Australia and New Zealand.
"QUITE A MOMENT"
Britain has said it wants to pull out of the European single market and customs union, putting an end to the free movement of EU nationals into the UK.
According to government estimates published earlier this month, the British economy will be worse off under the three most plausible scenarios for its departure from the European Union.
The predictions found the auto, retail and finance industries would be the hardest hit, due to increases in tariffs and customs red tape.
Dover port officials fear this will lead to holdups for up to 10,000 lorries passing through each day and disruption for the £122 billion-worth (US$174 billion) of trade that transits through the port every year.
Trucks crossing the Channel on ferries from Calais and other European ports are currently processed in two minutes.
The Dover port authority estimates that even an additional two minutes could cause queues of over 27km.
It was more than 25 years ago that Dover saw the European single market come into force on Jan 1, 1993, a date that former customs officer Derek Leach remembers well.
"The first lorry drivers through on the first ferry after midnight, they were wearing DJs (dinner jackets), and their lorries were lit up with fairy lights and so on, blasting their horns. It was quite a moment," the 79-year-old said, speaking on the seafront.
A short walk away, a large mural by street artist Banksy depicts a workman removing a star on the EU flag, causing cracks to ripple out across the blue background.
Leach, also chairman of the Dover Society community group, said he was "very nervous" about the break with Europe.
"I think people are becoming more aware of the difficulties and just hope that somebody, somewhere, can solve them," he said.
Hannah Cronk, a pro-EU voter, said many of her friends opted to leave but were now regretting their choice.
"They thought that that meant that people weren't going to be allowed in, and that would give them more opportunities for jobs. But it hasn't changed," she said.
John Angell, chairman of the Dover Town Team of local business owners, said he was concerned there had not been faster progress in Brexit talks.
"From a business point of view, we always like to plan ahead and there's so much uncertainty at the moment as to what's going to happen," said 62-year-old Angell.