The prospect of long delays to freight traffic heading through Kent to the Channel ports has again been raised in a letter from Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove MP - seen by the BBC - warning that there could be queues of up to 7,000 trucks in the event of a no-deal end to the Brexit transition period at the end of December.

He also warned that new Customs clearance procedures could see two-day delays to imports, raising fears of a return to panic buying and empty supermarket shelves.

Gove appeared to place the onus on the freight transport industry to prepare for the new arrangements, despite the RHA saying earlier this week that it was the government's responsibility to set up the Smart Freight Customs clearance systems that will be needed to avoid delays.

The minister's letter said queues would be due to "up to 70% of freight trucks travelling to the EU being unprepared for new border controls", including up to half on the busiest Dover to Calais ferry and in the Eurotunnel, the BBC said.

In response to the letter, Elizabeth de Jong, policy director of Logistics UK, said: “Logistics UK has long warned government of the potential for border delays after the UK leaves the EU, and while there is still time to put mitigations in place to avoid them, it will be a huge challenge for government and industry to achieve. The ability of traders to complete and provide the correct paperwork will be key to ensuring the continued smooth passage of goods through the UK’s supply chain, and we are urging businesses exporting to the EU to install and understand the systems they will need to use in time for the 1 January 2021 deadline.

“However, it is also incumbent on government to ensure logistics businesses have details of and access to the UK’s own logistics systems, including Smart Freight and GVMS, in good time so that adequate training and testing can be carried out. Full working guidance on the port systems to be used in Europe, particularly in France and Ireland, must also be provided by our EU partners to minimise delays and the potential for disruption to the supply chain at a time of year when the UK depends on imported goods across a number of sectors."

In anticipation of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, a group of stakeholders forming the Kent Resilience Forum (KRF) has produced a range of contingency plans to mitigate traffic disruption in Kent under the name Operation Fennel.

With 10,000 freight vehicles per day crossing the channel, these plans provide capacity for managing queues that may build to 10,000 to 12,000 vehicles. This plan involves initially queuing trucks on the M20 before diverting them to Manston Airfield via the A299 Thanet Way.