Channel Islands could face food shortage if Brexit delays city port

Mike Sellers, the director of Portsmouth International Port. Ben Mitchell/PA WireMike Sellers, the director of Portsmouth International Port. Ben Mitchell/PA Wire
Mike Sellers, the director of Portsmouth International Port. Ben Mitchell/PA Wire
POOR Brexit planning at a Portsmouth port could leave Channel Island supermarkets ‘empty’ of food for periods of time.

At an economic development scrutiny panel yesterday the director of Portsmouth International Port warned that any delays due to  a no-deal Brexit could significantly slow supplies getting to Jersey and Guernsey.

As 95 per cent of all food on the islands comes from the port in the past supermarkets have felt the pressure when ships have been held back by 24 hours or more in situations such as poor weather.

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Speaking to the panel port director Mike Sellers said: ‘The Channel Islands rely on Portsmouth so they’ve been concerned about the potential impact and they want to make sure that their goods are still moving freely.’

As a result measures are in place to keep cargo moving quickly. A fast-track system will be used for ships going to the islands.

And to ensure all port movements are efficient new technology will be put in place to allow the port to digitally share information with shipping and customs services so that it is immediately known if cargo has been cleared or not.

The plans come as part of long-term ‘worst case scenario’ preparations for leaving the EU without a deal.

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As previously reported potential congestion on the M275 will be remedied by triage points to check documentation of lorries and a lorry park in Tipner for those needing to be held.

But Mr Sellers explained the port could benefit in some ways. ‘There are opportunities in a no-deal Brexit for us because we have got experience in dealing with World Trade Organisation and MMD,’ he said.

‘We have services, like CITES authority to bring in exotic animals, that other ports don’t have, such as Dover and Holyhead. They might have to come to us for this and that will bring in income.

‘We’ve got customs agents, and we’re recruiting more at the moment to be prepared for when we leave the EU.’

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It is also planned that border inspection posts will be set up to tackle any animal-based products coming into the port that at the moment don’t need to be checked.

Mr Sellers added: ‘Whatever happens, whether it is a deal or no deal, we will need somewhere inland as a clearance depot. This could provide a one-stop shop for authorities and inspections.’

Members of the panel praised the preparations of the port.

Councillor Scott Payter-Harris said: ‘In the event of a no-deal Brexit we do have to make sure that the Channel Islands have enough food.

‘I do like that you are looking at the long term future for the port, not just about what needs to be done now.’

Cllr Rob New added: ‘I think in 10 years’ time people will think things were quite well organised in the lead-up to Brexit, if you ignore the politicians and media.’