An unexploded WWII bomb has been discovered at a disused airport earmarked by Chris Grayling to use as a lorry park in a no-deal Brexit.
Army bomb experts are at the scene assessing the device after Kent Police were called this morning, just 15 days before Britain could crash out of the EU.
Under-fire Mr Grayling plans to use Manston Airport, in Kent, as an overflow area to hold lorries in the event Britain crashes out of the EU later this month.
Officials ‘remain confident’ that the airfield will be ready to use by March 29 despite the discovery, a Department for Transport spokesman insisted tonight.
Lorries lined up during a trial at the former Manston Airport site in Kent of a government plan to hold lorries in the event of post-Brexit disruption at the channel ports in January this year. Today, an exploded WWII bomb has been found
Drivers and security staff gather as lorries wait at the Manston Airport to do a test drive to the Port of Dover in January this year
Also known as Kent International Airport, the site closed in 2014 after owners were unable to find a buyer.
In a Brexit trial run in January nearly 100 lorries arrived at the airport in Ramsgate before driving along the A256 towards Dover.
The trial, called Operation Brock, was testing out the site as a mass HGV holding bay to ease congestion on roads to Channel ports. The 20-mile journey to Dover takes around half an hour depending on traffic.
Just 89 lorries took part in the practice run during morning rush-hour – a fraction of the 4,000 which could use the site in a no deal scenario.
Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke also criticised the test, saying the lorry speed was too slow and insisting the scheme should only be used as a last resort.
Each driver participating in the exercise cost the department £550, their spokeswoman confirmed, meaning £48,950 was paid out.
Lorries line up on the A526 outside Dover for the second of two trials at the former Manston Airport site in January this year
A sign at Manston Airport is seen in 2014, showing its former name – Kent International Airport – before it closed that year when owners were unable to find a buyer
A map showing the route of the lorry convoy from the disused airport to the port of Dover
But Theresa May’s spokesman insisted the Government was ‘satisfied’ with the number of lorries which took part and said the test provided a ‘suitable sample’.
Congestion at the Channel ports, caused by new customs checks on goods, has been one of the most commonly cited fears around a cliff-edge Brexit.
MPs voted on Wednesday night to reject a no-deal Brexit – but the UK will still crash out on March 29 unless a deal or an extension is agreed before then.
Mr Grayling has been under fire over the Brexit planning process since it emerged that a shipping firm which won a Government contract did not own any ferries.
The £13.8million deal with Seaborne Freight sparked widespread concern and ridicule, and was terminated last month.
The Government was forced to pay £33million to Eurotunnel to settle a legal action over the contracts, prompting further calls for Mr Grayling to resign.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, pictured in Downing Street this week, has faced pressure to quit over his handling of the Brexit preparations
Lorries parked in a queue during a trial at the former Manston Airport site in Kent of a government plan to hold lorries there in the event of post-Brexit disruption
A picture from 1989 showing planes at the then-Kent International Airport
Manston was first used as an airfield in 1915, during the First World War when military aircraft used the site for emergency landings.
It was heavily used during World War II, including by Hawker Typhoon and Gloster Meteor squadrons, according to planning documents.
During the Cold War it was put into used by the United States Air Force, who used it as a strategic air command base for fighter and bomber units.
It became a civilian and RAF airport in 1960 when American forces withdrew, and was rebranded as Kent International Airport in 1989.
The Ministry of Defence sold the site in 1998 and never made a profit after that, passing through several owners until it closed in 2014.
Short-lived budget airline EUJet had used the site as a hub, launching services to 21 European destinations, but the firm collapsed in 2005.