Fears increase over post-Brexit gridlock after MoD land rowÂ

PLANS to stack delayed lorries in a bid to avoid turning the M275 into a car park under a no-deal Brexit have hit the buffers.

Thursday, 20th December 2018, 8:56 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 10:31 am
Lorries held on the M20 near Ashford in Kent, as Operation Stack was enforced due to a French fisherman strike outside the port of Calais in France in 2009 Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Portsmouth City Council wanted to set use the Ministry of Defence firing range at Tipner West to stack containers if new customs checked slowed lorries through the port.

But in a letter to prime minister Theresa May, council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson has revealed the MoD will no longer hand over the land as planned on April 1 '“ three days after Britain leaves the European Union on March 29.

In the letter, Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: '˜I am very disappointed that this government department does not seem to understand the urgency of having sensible contingency plans in case of trade disruption after Brexit, and I would ask for you to intervene at the earliest possible time to allow the Portsmouth International Port to be able to plan sensibly in case we end up with a no-deal Brexit.'

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Lorries held on the M20 near Ashford in Kent, as Operation Stack was enforced due to a French fisherman strike outside the port of Calais in France in 2009 Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Port director Mike Sellers told The News in August there was '˜limited space' and goods not cleared for customs would not be allowed into the port if Britain crashed out the EU.

Yesterday Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: '˜The distance from the freight gate back to the motorway is the length of 13 lorries only. You've got 14 lorries queuing and you've got queuing on the motorway.'

The council, which owns the port, signed an agreement saying it would get the land under the City Deal six years ago. The News understands that the handover of the Tipner Ranges by the MoD is dependent on a replacement facility being ready at Longmoor, elsewhere in Hampshire.

The Sun reported development secretary Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP, broke ranks calling for a transition deal to ensure a no-deal Brexit does not wreck businesses. 

Ms Mordaunt previously told The News: '˜We are all working for a deal but if we don't get one then we must prepare for a no-deal Brexit. That is the responsible thing to do.'

Ms Mordaunt, Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan, and the MoD were contacted for comment last night.

Around 250,000 lorries travel through the port each year. Port bosses operate a tight turnaround with not much space available.

In October, Brexit minister Chris Heaton-Harris visited the port and said: '˜This is one of the most important ports in the United Kingdom.'