Portsmouth Port Warning Over No-Deal Brexit

4 January 2019, 09:12 | Updated: 4 January 2019, 09:13

Portsmouth Port

Council leaders in Hampshire are warning a no-deal Brexit may lead to lorries queuing on the M275 for Portsmouth Port.

A joint statement by the County, Portsmouth, Southampton and Isle of Wight councils expresses concerns about longer customs checks.

Hampshire County Council Leader Cllr Roy Perry, Isle of Wight Council Leader Cllr Dave Stewart, Portsmouth City Council Leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson and Southampton City Council Leader Christopher Hammond, have engaged in a series of meetings to ensure the authorities are coordinating their preparations for the UK's departure from the EU on 29 March.

The meetings are an opportunity to discuss any expected problems and review preparations being made by the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Local Resilience Forum (LRF), which is made up of a range of organisations including councils and emergency services. The first meeting included a briefing from the chair of the LRF Strategic Co-ordinating Group, Hampshire Constabulary's assistant chief constable Dave Hardcastle, and further LRF updates will be received at future meetings.

The biggest problem anticipated is potential traffic congestion resulting from delays to cross-Channel ferries at Portsmouth International Port, especially if traffic is re-routed from Dover, which could have knock-on effect across the county. The Leaders have written to Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling to outline their concerns and requests for support. These concerns have also been highlighted to the Prime Minister and all Hampshire and Isle of Wight MPs. In particular they have requested better engagement from Highways England and the Ministry of Defence, which owns land that may be of use as a holding space for lorries.

Currently Portsmouth International Port transports up to 500 lorries a day abroad; if traffic diverts from other ports this will increase significantly. Under a no deal Brexit delays are likely if lorries need extra customs clearance before embarking on a ferry; whereas currently this is not required for vehicles travelling to EU countries. The distance between the freight check-in desk at Portsmouth International Port and the beginning of the motorway is just 13 lorry lengths, so a queue of 14 lorries or more would mean queuing traffic on the motorway. 

The Leaders' future plans include inviting the region's MPs to a briefing where they will update them on the reassuring work done by the LRF and discuss next steps.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: 

"The issues Brexit will bring are going to affect more than one council area and it's important we work together to ensure our areas are as resilient as possible to the challenges ahead. By coordinating our efforts we can avoid duplication and minimise costs so no more money than necessary is diverted from already stretched council budgets and vital services. As individuals we represent different areas and political parties and I am very pleased everyone is able to put that aside and work together for the greater good."

Cllr Perry, said: 

"As a leading export county, I want to ensure that collectively, we do all we can to support international trade, jobs and businesses, by taking the practical steps needed to respond effectively to whatever the outcome of Brexit may be. In the meantime, we will continue developing our contingency plans to ensure that any potential short term adverse impact on local communities, is minimised, and that our residents, including the most vulnerable, are able to receive the goods and services they need."

Cllr Stewart said: 

"This is an important forum which is enabling all the council leaders to come together and plan for the potential impact of Brexit. 

"I am pleased the Island is able to play a key role in this forum. I am determined that the impact of any decision regarding Brexit on the Island is properly managed. 

"We know we rely on the ferries for much of our goods and services and I am pleased our unique position is being fully recognised by our council colleagues across Hampshire." 

Cllr Hammond said: 

"There are still many uncertainties about what our relationship will be with the EU and the full consequences of a no-deal Brexit. Despite this, Southampton City Council is working proactively with neighbouring authorities to mitigate a range of possible impacts for our region's residents and businesses.

"Locally, we're working with the Port of Southampton and Connect partners to plan for any detrimental traffic impact in the city and the surrounding area which might be caused by an increase in HGV movements across the Solent network."