Portsmouth council leader hands transport secretary Grant Shapps £800K no-deal Brexit bill as minister visits city port

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TRANSPORT secretary Grant Shapps has been handed an £844,000 bill by Portsmouth’s council leader in a bid to recoup money spent on preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

Portsmouth City Council boss, councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, slid Mr Shapps the invoice during a meeting at Portsmouth International Port.

Portsmouth City Council leader, councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, with transport secretary Grant Shapps at the Portsmouth International Port. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Portsmouth City Council leader, councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, with transport secretary Grant Shapps at the Portsmouth International Port. Picture: Habibur Rahman

The minister visited the site today to meet councillors, port bosses and Hampshire's local resilience forum – a team of emergency service leaders working on remedying the region's challenges after Brexit. 

Portsmouth has so far been given about £2.1m to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. This includes £1.25m given to the local resilience forum.

But Cllr Vernon-Jackson said government funding installations are coming ‘far too little, far too late’, with Portsmouth and Hampshire’s councils having already spent more than £4m to get ready for Brexit. 

READ MORE: Portsmouth council leader warns no-deal Brexit could divert trading standards investigators away from dealing with criminals - and could cost authority £300,000 extra a year

Portsmouth International Port. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Portsmouth International Port. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘It's very useful for the secretary of state to come down and see things in Portsmouth himself, not just rely on briefings in London. 

‘It’s a bit late, they should’ve been working with us much earlier, and I’ve given him a bill for all the money we think they should be paying us. 

‘[It covers] £844,000 for work we’ve done building things, which they haven’t paid for, and £100,000-a-week from now on to get the staff in place to be able to have triage points on the motorway and make sure there isn’t a complete traffic nightmare if we have a no-deal.’ 

It was confirmed today an additional staging ground for lorries bound for Portsmouth's port will be set up on the A303, near Basingstoke. 

The triage point is the furthest away from Portsmouth – with others at Tipner and on the A31 – and will be paid for by the resilience forum.

The points will be used to hold lorries to ensure they have the right customs paperwork.

READ MORE: Warning over dogging rise if lorries are stuck in traffic in no-deal Brexit backlog

Mr Shapps did not say whether the government would pay the city council's Brexit bill, but said its no-deal funding was an 'ongoing issue’.

‘It's obvious a bit of local politics gets caught up in these things,' he said. 

‘Government has, certainly since Boris Johnson became prime minister, made it very clear we want to stand behind local areas, particularly where there are ports to make sure they are ready, and we've been doing everything possible to make sure that's the case.' 

Mr Shapps also addressed emergency planners' fears the M275 could become clogged with lorries in the event of a no-deal Brexit

It comes after the government warned them of a ‘worst-case scenario’ that would see 75 per cent of hauliers turn up with the wrong paperwork.

READ MORE: Portsmouth council tells government its new city Brexit funding is 'far too little far too late' as no-deal frustrations continue to mount

‘I should stress it’s not what we think is going to happen,' said Mr Shapps. 

He added: ‘What was good to see is that if we did have the worst-case scenario, Portsmouth port is ready and I’ve been very impressed by what I’ve seen looking around.’ 

Councillor Donna Jones, who leads the city’s Conservatives, said Mr Shapps was also told about the city’s green initiatives and a goal of making Portsmouth ‘the greenest city in the UK by 2030’.

It’s now vital government listens to Portsmouth’s Brexit concerns 

CITY MP Stephen Morgan said ministers must not ignore Portsmouth’s concerns about Brexit going forward, after Mr Shapps' visit. 

It follows repeated calls from the city council for more funding to remedy potential impacts of a no-deal Brexit on the city. 

Mr Morgan, who represents Labour in Portsmouth South, said: ‘With our port contributing £390m to the nation’s economy and millions of pounds each year to fund local services in Portsmouth, the port’s success is our city’s success.

‘Following countless conversations, letters to Ministers, parliamentary questions and lobbying for the local authority, I’m assured the secretary of state for transport finally visited Portsmouth today.

‘With the council reporting that engagement with DfT being “highly problematical” to date, it vital that Mr Shapps now takes forward the concerns we’ve been raising for months. The Government must now not only listen to Portsmouth, but take urgent action. 

‘It is vital Mr Shapps now takes forward the concerns we’ve been raising for months. The government must now not only listen to Portsmouth, but take urgent action.’