No-deal Brexit ‘could turn M275 into lorry park’ warns Portsmouth port director

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PORT bosses are hunting for land to store trailers in a bid to prevent turning the M275 into a lorry park in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Britain crashing out of the European Union could see stationary lorries on the motorway, with contingency plans to develop a separate site and put in a border check post at the port costing £5m.

Mike Sellers. Picture: M.Focard de Fontefiguieres

Mike Sellers. Picture: M.Focard de Fontefiguieres

Portsmouth International Port director Mike Sellers warned it would take at least 18 months to bring the plans to reality if government negotiations with EU member states falter.

Speaking to The News, Mr Sellers warned exports from Portsmouth would be hit, with freight firms seeing delays.

He said: ‘Effectively, in a no deal scenario, if there goods turning up to the port not clearing customs we won’t be allowing them into the port.

‘Where would we put them? That’s the issue.When we look at the whole logistics of the model it’s all around fast-moving freight.

‘There’s very limited space for where goods could be held.’

He wants to avoid an Operation Stack-style situation, which sees lorries parked up on the M20 in Kent during disruption at the Eurotunnel.

Extra paperwork – even if that added just a minute to each lorry’s journey – would add six hours worth of delays to the port per day and see lorries back up on the M275 as there is no space at the facility.

To avoid this Mr Sellers wants to secure a site nearby, potentially in Tipner, so firms can store trailers ahead of exporting goods.

He said: ‘We can’t expand any further we’ve got Whale Island to one side and the Naval Base to the other side.

‘(The site) needs to be somewhere away from the port so if there’s the potential of HGV delays then we’ve got that contingency arrangement in place.

‘For a no-deal scenario the last thing we want is the M275 backed up with HGVs.’

Mr Sellers, who runs the Portsmouth City Council-owned port, insisted his staff are experienced and ready to turn a no-deal Brexit into an opportunity if needed – but the infrastructure needs to be put in place.

Council leader Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson said government had ‘absolutely no clear plan’ for ports in such a scenario – and worried ferries could also back up.

‘My worry is that we’ll be having Operation Stack down the Solent,’ he said.

‘Ferries can’t come in because there’s nowhere to put the lorries.’

A UK government spokesperson said: ‘As the prime minister has set out, after Brexit we will not only seek to forge new trade relationships with partners around the world but also maintain frictionless trade in goods between the UK and EU.

‘While we remain confident of reaching an agreement with the EU to achieve this, it is only sensible to prepare for a range of scenarios. That is why the Department for Transport is working closely with a range of partners on contingency plans to ensure freight can continue to move as freely as possible between the UK and Europe.’