Government refusing to pay for no-deal Brexit contingency plans at major port
The Government has only put up 10% of the cost of contingency plans being set up to avoid major disruption at one of the UK’s main cross-Channel ports in the case of a no-deal Brexit.
Mike Sellers, the director of Portsmouth International Port, said that emergency plans had been prepared in case a deal was not agreed with the EU.
But he said the Department for Transport (Dft) was refusing to acknowledge there was an issue at the Hampshire port.
Mr Sellers explained that with only 13 lorry lengths between the port and the motorway network, any delays at the border through new customs checks would cause congestion on the main route connecting the Hampshire island city.
Mr Sellers said that the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Resilience Forum (LRF) had developed a plan for two lorry triage processing points to be created, one at the edge of Portsmouth and the other on the A31 near Winchester, to streamline arrivals at the port.
But he said the cost of setting up the system required in a no-deal situation was £4 million while the Government had only provided £345,000 in funding.
Mr Sellers told the Press Association: “There has been a lot of work in the port industry to prepare for the worst case, I am confident we will be Brexit ready whatever the outcome may be, even a no-deal.
“The issue at the moment is around the funding not the preparation. The DfT are not accepting there is going to be a potential issue at Portsmouth.”
Praising the contingency planning of the LRF, Mr Sellers said: “If they didn’t have that plan in place, it wouldn’t go smoothly, there would be considerable congestion around Portsmouth.”
He added that the disruption would not only impact the south of England but also the Channel Islands.
He explained: “We are essential to the Channel Islands, 95% consumed on those islands comes through our port, and it is just-in-time freight.
“If those ferries are delayed by 48 hours the supermarket shelves are empty and it’s not just food but medical supplies as well so it’s absolutely right we do have the contingency plans so in the worst case scenario we do not impact on the communities.”
Stephen Morgan, Labour MP for Portsmouth South, said: “The LRF identified a risk around Portsmouth and the impact on traffic would be significant in the most densely populated city outside of London.
“Local authority budgets have been cut for eight or nine years yet Portsmouth is having to take money out of its coffers to pay for lorry parks which I do not think is right when this money should be spent on public services.”
A spokeswoman for Hampshire County Council said that the cost of works to create the A31 triage point would be £1 million for set-up an initial running costs.
She said: “If these works were required, reimbursement would be sought from central Government.”
A DfT spokeswoman said that the estimated risk of disruption in south Hampshire did not warrant extra funding.
She said: “We continue to work closely with local resilience forums, including the Hampshire and Isle of Wight LRF, to help them prepare for any potential impacts of the UK’s exit from the EU.
“The Government will consider a claim for support should the local authorities find themselves in a position of financial hardship following the implementation of mitigation works.”