Government’s no-deal plans to turn two major motorways in Kent into lorry parks show Brexit negotiations are on the brink.

In May, delegates from each of the three chambers visited the Channel Tunnel in Folkestone to explore the potential impact of Brexit on this critical border. With a crossing time of just 35 minutes, the Channel Tunnel is the UK’s main connection to Europe for high-value and time-sensitive goods. Five months on, the government is actively preparing for this crucial link to grind to a halt.

Works began over the weekend to convert the M26 into a potential lorry park in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This follows the previous announcement that 13.5-mile section of the M20 is being earmarked for the same reason.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has already stressed the importance of frictionless trade to both UK businesses and companies based in Europe but the fact that two major motorways are being converted as part of contingency plans illustrates just how close the UK may be to leaving the EU without a deal.

At every point during the negotiations, just-in-time and just-in-sequence companies have called for the government to provide information to mitigate risks and to strategically plan for the future in the event of no deal. According to RHA figures, of the 4.8 million driver-accompanied freight vehicles moving from the UK to Europe four million travelled by ferry from Dover or by shuttle through the Eurotunnel. If these routes were to become less viable due to delays and increased customs checks, then UK businesses will be at a significant disadvantage to European neighbours.

As Brexit negotiations enter what are expected to be the crucial final weeks, we still await the practical assurances that government will send the clear message that the UK will remain an open and attractive place to do business.

As chambers of commerce representing London, Greater Manchester and Bristol we are continuing to gather evidence for a campaign – Terms of Trade: the reality of Brexit for business – exploring the everyday impacts of the most widely discussed Brexit scenarios on business through our members’ own insights. Email to share your views.