Brexit minister vows government will ensure Portsmouth port will ‘function and succeed’ after Britain leaves the European Union

Brexit minister Chris Heaton-Harris with Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson outside Portsmouth International Port on October 12 after the pair discussed Britain's exit from the European Union. Picture: Ben Fishwick
Brexit minister Chris Heaton-Harris with Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson outside Portsmouth International Port on October 12 after the pair discussed Britain's exit from the European Union. Picture: Ben Fishwick

BREXIT minister Chris Heaton-Harris has said the Portsmouth's port is one of the 'most important' in the United Kingdom.

The Brexiteer MP's comments came as he toured Portsmouth International Port – answering a call by port leaders for government to listen to their views.

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It comes as fellow Department for Exiting the European Union minister Suella Braverman – also Fareham MP – had been criticised by political opponents for failing to make a visit.

Speaking after meeting staff at the port, council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson and Brittany Ferries bosses, Mr Heaton-Harris said the operation in the city was 'awesome' and government would ensure it could continue.

Concerns have been raised by port director Mike Sellers and council political leaders that any delays in custom checks in Europe could affect business.

Speaking to The News, the minister said: 'This is one of the most important ports in the United Kingdom.

'I wanted to come down and make the point to Mike that we absolutely understand that.

'It's really important to UK plc that this port continues to function and succeed and the government is going to do the right thing by it so that it continues in every scenario.’

He added: ‘The potential for it to grow in the future is really good. It has great vision for what it wants to achieve and sees opportunities ahead.

'We are expecting to get some very good news on a deal in the very near future, and we've been talking today about the potential for what that means for the port, and also making sure we answer their questions if we don't get a deal – as a responsible government always prepares for every eventuality.’

Brittany Ferries’ Nigel Wonnacott, who was at the meeting, said the ferry firm is linked in with senior French officials so they could pass on what arrangements could be likely.

He said the firm does have concerns over uncertainties and wants to let its customers know what will happen with pet passports, European health cards and other issues. 

He said: ‘As we are still swimming in a sea of uncertainty it’s very difficult for us to offer the kind of reassurance to our passengers and freight customers we’d like to offer them.’

As reported, port boss Mr Sellers told The News a no-deal scenario without any planning could see lorries queuing on the M275. The port is planning to use a parcel of land in Tipner to store containers if necessary.

Me Heaton-Harris insisted government is ‘expecting a deal’ and it has a ‘whole host of contingency plans’.

He added: ‘Government is going to deliver on the referendum, which is what 58 per cent of people in Portsmouth voted for and this negotiation that's going on, which will be successful, which will bring us this future economic partnership and will bring lots of things that the people of Portsmouth voted for back then will happen.

‘We are absolutely delivering on the will of the British people and the will of the people in Portsmouth.’

Portsmouth City Council leader, Cllr Vernon-Jackson, said it was positive to have the minister visit and reiterated calls to have the council-owned facility used as a ‘test port’.

‘It’s been a very positive conversation,’ he said.

Mr Sellers added: ‘We’re delighted we’ve got the minister for Dexeu to come along to understand what we do, what our concerns are.’