Government accused of 'lying' to Portsmouth over no-deal Brexit chaos at port after document leak reveals vehicles will be turned away

MINISTERS have been accused of lying about the true level of chaos Portsmouth’s port could face in the event of a no-deal Brexit after a ‘sensitive’ government document was leaked.

Tuesday, 17th September 2019, 5:02 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th September 2019, 9:48 pm
The memorial to early Victoria Cross winner Seaman Thomas Reeves which visitors to the Portsmouth International Ferry Port Terminal as they pass through the front doors. Picture: Steve Reid (120726-566)

Whitehall’s Operation Yellowhammer dossier – only released last week after a parliamentary battle – predicted a ‘low risk of significant sustained queues’ at ports other than in Kent.

But new documents, printed last month and revealed today, show this would only be the case because tens of thousands of vehicles would be turned away before they reached the coast – for not having the correct paperwork.

In Portsmouth about two-thirds of vehicles would not be allowed into the port, the Department for Transport (DfT) papers, stamped ‘official sensitive’, show.

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Pictures released by Portsmouth International Port as an economic impact report found it contributed £380m to the national economy and £189 locally. Picture: Paul Gonella

Major ports in Liverpool and Holyhead are facing a similar level of disruption, the Financial Times (FT) claimed.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council, was furious and said: ‘The court found last week that the government had lied to the Queen about proroguing parliament.

‘So we should not be surprised that the government has lied to the people of Portsmouth about the traffic chaos that might be caused by a no-deal Brexit.’

According to the FT, Portsmouth would only remain manageable because so many vehicles would be turned away, with a source adding: ‘Yellowhammer didn’t give us the full picture… one could say it was seriously misleading.’

The DfT was unable to say whether the additional checking would create extra queues.

But one document said imports would only be able to flow freely at Portsmouth if there were ‘local arrangements preventing HGVs that have been turned back from blocking inbound flow’.

Brittany Ferries has insisted it is doing all it can to reduce potential disruption and would be introducing a network of triage points to ensure lorries have the correct documentation before arriving at the port freight gate.

Those without the correct papers would be held at the new lorry park in Tipner to avoid queues building on the road.

A Brittany Ferries spokesman said: ‘We are working closely through the local resilience forum (LRF) to ensure traffic flows are fluid and that any potential delays arising from a no-deal Brexit scenario are minimised.

‘We cannot of course be 100 per cent certain, but we will continue to work with the LRF to build resilience into planning.’

The DfT declined to comment on the documents but a spokesman said that if hauliers had ‘the correct documentation, there should be limited disruption at the border’.

‘We have implemented a major campaign to ensure hauliers can take action to get ready and are able to operate and that trade can continue to move as freely as possible between the UK and Europe after Brexit,’ the spokesman said.