Concerns raised over whether Portsmouth International Port is ready for Brexit transition deadline

Border force controls at Portsmouth International Port. Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty ImagesBorder force controls at Portsmouth International Port. Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Border force controls at Portsmouth International Port. Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
PORT bosses have called for calm amid concerns over border preparations for the Brexit transition.

A report published by the National Audit Office (NAO) suggests that ports across the country will struggle after January 1, 2021.

According to the NAO, although the groundwork was put in place, the Covid-19 outbreak put a halt to preparations, which means ports are unprepared for the EU exit deadline.

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The result could lead to thousands of lorries being stuck at the entrances and exits to ports up and down the country.

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Bosses at Portsmouth International Port insist that they are more prepared than short Channel crossings like Dover, but admit there is still work to do.

The news comes just days after director Mike Sellers told the council that more cash is needed for the preparation work – particularly the creation of new border checkpoints, which would require taking on land ‘adjacent to the port' next year.

Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, has called for the government to develop contingency plans in case the work cannot be completed on time.

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He said: ‘The January 1 deadline is unlike any previous EU exit deadline – significant changes at the border will take place and government must be ready.

‘Disruption is likely and government will need to respond quickly to minimise the impact, a situation made all the more challenging by the Covid-19 pandemic.’

In a report to Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet, Mr Sellers warned the upgrades could cost upwards of £20m – a sum which neither the port or local authority could afford.

A project to upgrade the M275 to prevent congestion from the port backing onto the motorway, known as Operation Transmission, would also need £3.8m from the government to ‘stand it up’.

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No cash has come from government for this yet, Hampshire’s Local Resilience Forum said.

But he remains optimistic that the port will be ready for January 1.

Mr Sellers said: ‘We have been preparing for some time to manage freight away from the port, to avoid any potential disruption, following the end of the UK-EU transition.

‘With the Local Resilience Forum’s plan in place, you shouldn’t notice any impact. The pandemic has meant it’s been more critical than ever for trade to continue and we will continue to operate 24/7.

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‘If we’re successful in our bid for the government’s Port Infrastructure Fund to create the facilities required by July next year for further import regulations, goods will continue to trade seamlessly through one of the UK’s major ports.’

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