Cash blow for Portsmouth port could halt livestock trading after Brexit

A general view of the Portsmouth International Port on December 21, 2020. (Photo by Andrew Hasson/Getty Images)A general view of the Portsmouth International Port on December 21, 2020. (Photo by Andrew Hasson/Getty Images)
A general view of the Portsmouth International Port on December 21, 2020. (Photo by Andrew Hasson/Getty Images)
THE LIVESTOCK industry in the UK could grind to a halt, officials have warned, if the government continues to withhold £7m needed for Brexit preparations at Portsmouth port.

Portsmouth City Council today (Feb 2) agreed to scrap plans for a live animal border control point at Portsmouth International Port, after being awarded just £17.1m out of a total £32m required for all Brexit upgrades.

Speaking at a virtual Portsmouth cabinet meeting today, John Royle - chief livestock adviser for the National Farmers Union - said a lot of ‘high value trade’ would be lost.

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Mr Royle said: ‘We have had no confirmation from government that we have got anything for animals to come into Great Britain from the EU.

‘We are looking at as many options as possible. We are hoping Portsmouth will provide that. Come July we will have no options.

‘I know there are currently 8,000 high-value Dutch animals waiting to come into the country.

‘I have written to a number of EU ports. Calais and Dunkirk came back saying “we have got enough on our plate as it is”, and they would struggle for space.

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'There’s no UK port that has a border control point for live animals.’

Council leader, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, explained the authority could not stump up the £7m needed for the live animal border control point as the livestock trade currently brings in around £23,000 a year to the city - meaning it would not be financially viable.

But he approved the use of the government funding for a border control point to allow meat and other fresh produce to come through the port - without which the port would lose around 50 per cent of its trade.

And without the full funding bid the port will also not be able to expand its freight gates as originally planned.

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Mr Sellers said: ‘We are not able to expand our freight gates to streamline our freight arrivals and reduce the impact on the M275.’

He also had concerns about all UK ports being ready for the changes in July.

‘Representatives of all the ports have written to the ministers at the cabinet highlighting the fact ports are not going to be ready by the first of July,’ he added.

Chief executive of the council, David Williams, said he would ‘keep pushing government’ for answers over the funding.

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However, a government spokesman for the cabinet office, said: ‘A number of UK border control posts will be designated for live animal imports including Dover, Sevington (Eurotunnel) and Holyhead, which are the ports with the highest volumes of animal imports from the EU.’

According to NFU statistics 30,000 breeding animals (pigs, sheep and cattle) are exported every year through Portsmouth, with a similar number imported.

These schemes approved to go ahead at the post will cost around £22.3m, currently leaving a funding gap of £5.2m.

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