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Brexit chaos gives way to tranquility on day one of Dover’s new normal

On the day Britain left the EU, Dover fell silent. Aside from the occasional meandering vehicle, the town’s port remained vacant. Ferries drifted soundlessly across the still, gleaming sea and into the mists that obscured the continent. Even the winds that frequently batter the coast appeared to let up in deference to the symbolism of it all. With decades’ old agreements torn up and replaced by a trade deal agreed just days beforehand, the scene couldn’t be further from the chaos some had predicted in the months before – or even the disruption of a week prior.

On the clifftop above, a pre-recorded message to tourists from a talking telescope played on loop with a robotic twang. “Dover, with its history going back more than 4,000 years, is the busiest passenger ferryport in the world”, it said, free from the context of the scene below. “Set in and around the valley of the river Dour, and its famous white cliffs, Dover has always been in the frontline of history.”

The town has found itself on that frontline yet again in the Brexit debate. It wasn’t among the biggest leave-voting constituencies – although a significant 62 per cent voted to get out of the EU – but as a major thoroughfare for freight, and a potent symbol of the nation and its borders, it has remained a talking point throughout the debate. Over the past half decade, groups from both sides have been compelled to turn up to project statements onto the blank canvas of the cliffs, be they tabloid newspapers declaring “See EU Later” or pro-remain pressure groups shining promises to return onto the chalk. On the bright afternoon of 1 January, however, the cliffs are mostly occupied by dog walkers and bird watchers taking in the serenity of a day that had the potential to play host to unprecedented chaos.

“It’s rather lovely actually because normally there’s a lot of noise coming from there”, said Michael Hutchison, who joined friend Ros Newington for a walk along the cliffs. “Especially with all the lorries over the last week or so”, she adds, a reference to the disruption across Kent caused by the Covid-related closure of the border by French officials, “It’s been horrid.” Both in their 60s, they had voted to remain but were glad a deal had been brokered. Despite their pragmatism however, they were not convinced by the quiet of the day. “It’s a calm before the storm”, said Ms Newington. Read from source….