NHS cancels blood donor sessions in Dover and Folkestone for eight weeks around Brexit amid fears the local transport system could grind to a halt
- NHS Blood and Transport (NHSBT) confirmed the sessions were cancelled
- Sessions in the two weeks before March 29 and the six weeks after are affected
- Fears have been raised recently over the impact on Kent of a no-deal Brexit
- The Government is preparing for heavy queues at ports and the Channel Tunnel
The NHS has cancelled blood donation sessions in Kent around Brexit amid fears the local transport system could grind to a halt.
Sessions in Dover and Folkestone have been cut for the two weeks before March 29 and the six weeks afterwards.
The move by the NHS Blood and Transport (NHSBT) has been branded ‘ridiculous and irresponsible’ by Dover’s Tory MP.
Yet Labour representatives have claimed it is an ‘absolute disgrace’ on behalf of the Government and argue the ‘reckless behaviour could cost lives’.
A Government exercise trialed the use of Manston airfield in Kent (pictured) as a holding centre for trucks queuing to reach Dover in the event of disruption
Mike Stredder, director of blood donation for NHSBT, said the cancellation would have ‘no effect on blood stocks or on our ability to supply hospitals’.
He added that six sessions had been cancelled, out of around 2,700 countrywide in the same period.
Fears have been raised in recent months over the impact on Kent of a no-deal Brexit.
The Government has been preparing for heavy queues at ports and the Channel Tunnel if customs checks have to be re-introduced.
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Mr Stredder said: ‘We have taken the decision to cancel donation sessions in Dover and Folkestone for a two-week period before and for six weeks after Britain’s exit from the EU.
‘This is because in the event of issues at Calais and other freight ports, Operation Stack may be put in place by Highways England and the Kent Police.
‘This could lead to significant traffic in Kent and may prevent donation teams from reaching venues in the area or a donation leaving.’
Earlier this month, a leaked report suggested delays of as little as 70 seconds per truck at Dover could cause traffic jams which would take six days to clear.
Mike Stredder, director of blood donation for NHSBT, confirmed that six sessions had been cancelled, out of around 2,700 countrywide in the same period, with ‘no effect on blood stocks or on our ability to supply hospitals’
They follow a Government exercise to trial the use of Manston airfield in Kent as a holding centre for trucks queuing to reach Dover in the event of disruption.
However, Calais boss Jean-Marc Puissesseau has said the port had been preparing for Brexit for a year and would be ready to cope when the UK leaves the EU on March 29, whether there is a deal or not.
Discussing the blood session cancellations, Labour’s Virendra Sharma, a Best for Britain supporter, said: ‘It is an absolute disgrace that the Government’s no-deal contingency planning is interrupting life-saving blood donations.
‘The Government’s reckless behaviour could cost lives.
‘The Prime Minister must put a stop to this madness and rule out a disastrous no-deal immediately.’
But Dover’s Tory MP Charlie Elphicke criticised the NHS move as ‘ridiculous and irresponsible’.
He said: ‘Both the ports of Dover and Calais have said they will keep traffic flowing.
‘Why not see what happens first before creating worry completely unnecessarily?’
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘Yet again we learn of more disastrous consequences of Theresa May’s hopeless mishandling of Brexit.
‘It’s utterly shocking that blood donations in Kent have been cancelled.
‘It simply beggars belief that Tory ministers still refuse to rule out no deal, despite the devastating impact it will have on patients.’
What Brexit options could MPs vote on now May’s deal has failed?
More than half a dozen Cabinet ministers are pushing for Parliament to vote on ‘options’ for how to proceed if Theresa May’s deal fails.
Here are some of the possibilities that could be considered:
MPs from across parties have been mooting the idea of a Norway model.
It would effectively keep the UK in the single market, with a customs bolt-on to avoid a hard Irish border, and backers say it would keep Britain close to the EU while cutting contributions to Brussels.
However, critics say it has the drawbacks of keeping free movement, – and tightly limiting the possibilities for doing trade deals elsewhere.
The EU is also thought to have concerns about a country the UK’s size joining the EEA, while other states in the group might be resistant.
The so-called ‘People’s Vote’ campaign has been pushing hard for another national vote, with cross-party backing.
MPs would almost certainly want to be asked to back the idea in principle.
The Article 50 process would probably need to be extended to facilitate a referendum, but the EU seems open to that possibility.
However, the biggest problem is likely to be that even if the Commons can agree on holding a vote, they will be be completely split over the question.
Some want it to be a rerun of 2016 with Remain v Leave. Others say it should be May’s deal against no deal.
There are also those who support two rounds of voting, or multiple choice.
Brexiteers have been demanding the UK takes a different approach this time, seeking a looser Canada-style arrangement with the EU.
The arrangement they want would be a relatively clean break from the EU, with the ability to strike trade agreements elsewhere.
But it would fall far short of the low-friction access urged by Labour and large numbers of Tories.
MANAGED NO DEAL
Brexiteers have been floating a ‘managed’ no deal which could feature in the votes.
It would involve the UK offering the EU billions of pounds to secure a transition period, even if there is no wider deal.
However, there is little sign that the EU is ready to agree.
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