Campaigners outraged as MPs ignore meeting on no-deal Brexit fears in Portsmouth

WESTMINSTER politicians have been accused of burying their heads in the sand over fears a no-deal Brexit could cause motorway mayhem in Hampshire after only one of the region's MPs attended a key briefing by worried campaigners.

Friday, 4th January 2019, 4:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 2:27 pm
Queues of lorries on the M20 near Ashford in Kent which campaigners fear could hit motorways in Hampshire. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

It comes after top-tier council leaders from Portsmouth, Southampton, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight wrote to transport secretary, Chris Grayling, pleading for him to hear their  concerns.

The leaders claim that in the scenario of a no-deal Brexit, international lorry drivers could flock to Portsmouth to dodge security delays at Dover '“ leaving motorways and roads around Portsmouth gridlocked as they queue to get into the city's international ferry port.

Campaigners had hoped a briefing at the city port yesterday about the potential chaos could help gain them some crucial allies in government.

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Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan was the only MP out of 19 from across Hampshire who bothered to attend the event. Photo: Sarah Standing (180724-5641)

But out of the 19 MPs invited to attend the meeting, only one '“ Portsmouth South's MP Stephen Morgan '“ bothered to show.

Those to snub the meeting included international development secretary and Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt, health minister and Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage, Fareham MP and former Brexit minister Suella Braverman and Havant MP Alan Mak

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council, was frustrated by the lack of interest shown, claiming MPs had been invited to the meeting on December 21.

Cllr  Vernon-Jackson said: '˜This is really worrying. Eleven out of 19 MPs in the region didn't even respond to the invitation and only one actually attended.

International development secretary, Penny Mordaunt, is among those under fire for not attending the meeting about no-deal Brexit fears in Portsmouth. Photo: PA

'˜We're being told about something that could cause major economic disruption across Hampshire which could leave the county's motorways gridlocked '“ it's incredibly worrying.

'˜If the assistant chief constable of Hampshire police is there to give you a briefing and only one of the MPs turns up, I worry about what world the other 18 MPs are living in.'

Portsmouth looks after about 500 lorries a day passing through the city to France, Cllr Vernon-Jackson said, while Dover supports about 10,000 a day.

However, campaigners fear that as customs queues build at Dover after Brexit, lorry drivers could turn elsewhere.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said Portsmouth was bracing itself for up to 1,000 lorries a day - a surge which he claimed could risk clogging up the M275, M27 and A3(M) as well as smaller roads across the area.

'˜The new ferry service will only be able to take 250 lorries extra a day, so we're going to be left with 750 with nowhere else to go,' he said. '˜The level of gridlock this could cause would be enormous, it will spill out on the M27 which would probably affect Queen Alexandra Hospital.'

He said the council were looking at setting up waiting areas for lorries, which could include using a site near Dunsbury Hill Farm, off the A3(M) at Havant

Mr Morgan was '˜deeply disappointed' by the lack of attendance from his Westminster colleagues and demanded they '˜engage now' to hear local fears.

'˜Putting plans in place for the international port and any necessary stacking of delayed lorries in the region is essential, otherwise we can expect chaos,' he said. '˜We must now all work together on this to secure resources and agree a plan. Cross-party action in our city is essential as Leader of the Council has been too slow to act to date.

'˜It crucial to do so as an ill-prepared government and city council will only mean Portsmouth people will suffer.'

The News has approached MPs across the area for comment.