Brexit concerns over plans to expand trade between Portsmouth and France

PLANS to expand trade between France and Portsmouth could prove 'pointless' in the lead up to Brexit, ferry bosses have warned.

Brittany Ferries confirmed it had been looking at increasing the frequency of services from sites such as Portsmouth International Port into ports west of Calais.

Portsmouth International Ferry Port

Portsmouth International Ferry Port

But the company has been warned that every vehicle carrying refrigerated goods, food and other natural products may face inspections upon arrival in France after Britain leaves the EU.

The infrastructure needed for these inspections, such as large warehouses, does not currently exist in French ports linked with Portsmouth International Port such as St Malo, Le Havre and Cherbourg. It is also unlikely the warehouses would be constructed by March next year which could significantly add to delays in Portsmouth.

Brittany Ferries chief executive Christophe Mathieu said: 'The British may take a pragmatic approach and wave lorries through upon arrival into the UK.

'But cross-Channel trade works both ways. In a worst case scenario, British hauliers carrying refrigerated goods could face the prospect of far longer journeys – perhaps hundreds of additional miles – to find a French port equipped to process their consignment. When they finally get there they could encounter further delays waiting for checks to take place.

'The reality of this would be a loss of connectivity and a significant threat to jobs and long term investment in regions like the south west of England.'

Mike Sellers, the director of Portsmouth International Port, believed more information from politicians was needed. 'We join the calls requesting clarity regarding expectations to manage trade post-Brexit, and this includes European ports too,' he said.

'Any delays across the channel could have implications on sailings to Portsmouth, which would impact on our customers. It’s vital that the operations of ports are considered by all sides, to make sure we’re in the best possible position to provide a seamless service.

'Ferry ports transporting freight are hugely important to the flow of trade across the country and it’s vital all impacts are understood.'

But former leader of the council, Cllr Donna Jones, said: 'The UK government has already given clarity that there will not be checks on every lorry entering the UK and I expect the EU to do the same. It is not in the EU’s interests to effect the food supply chain by delaying food entering Europe. If this happened the flow of goods into Europe would be materially affected.'