Portsmouth council to seek legal action against 'chaotic' government following U-turn on post-Brexit border checks at Portsmouth International Port that cost £24m

THE city council is gearing up to take legal action after the ‘chaotic’ government U-turned on demands for post-Brexit border checks – for which Portsmouth port had already ‘wasted’ £24m.

Friday, 29th April 2022, 11:58 am

As reported, Portsmouth International Port was required to build a new border control post on site by July for checks on plant and animal products coming in from EU countries.

The as-yet unused facility, next to Mile End Road, cost £24m – with £17m covered by central government and the remaining £7m covered by Portsmouth City Council, which owns the port.

But the government has dropped plans to impose further checks on goods entering from the EU, meaning restrictions on the imports of chilled meats and border controls on plant and animal products will not be introduced in July.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The Border Control Post at Portsmouth International Port

Read More

Read More
Portsmouth City Council is in a 'ludicrous' war with Network Rail over removing ...

Brexit opportunities minister, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said it would be ‘wrong to impose new administrative burdens and risk disruption at ports’ and added that no further import controls would be imposed on EU goods this year.

City council leader, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, has slammed the move, branding government ‘chaotic’ and ‘disorganised’ and said he was looking into legal action to claw back some of the money spent.

‘We built the control post exactly as they asked and exactly to their specifications,’ he said.

Pictured is: Mike Sellers, port director at Portsmouth International Port. Picture: Sarah Standing (250422-2309)

‘This is the fourth time they’ve changed something about it.

‘It might have been OK if they paid for the whole thing but £7m of that has to be found by us. It was going to be paid over time by companies using the control post, but since it’s not happening we will have to find a way to cover it. And that means it’s paid for by the city.

‘The port is profitable and we use that money for services in the city that we might not otherwise be able to pay for – like youth services.’

The U-turn has left other ports across the UK out of pocket – apart from Kent, where the Brexit changes were paid for in full by government.

Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 291121-15)

He added: ‘What a waste of money. Once again the government has flip-flopped on its decisions and wasted public money in a criminal manner.

‘Think what that £24m could have been spent on – the NHS, new school buildings.

‘We will be looking into what steps can be taken now.’

Mike Sellers, Portsmouth International Port’s director, shared his frustrations saying the future of the facility was now ‘uncertain.’

He said: ‘To meet port health requirements set out by Defra, staff have been recruited and there has been significant resource dedicated to make sure we were ready for the 1 July deadline. It has cost millions to build a highly bespoke, specialist facility in accordance with government requirements.

‘While most of this was funded by the government, the port has had to contribute because, along with other ports, it did not receive the full amount. We now face significant capital liability on a building for which the future is uncertain. This has always been raised as a concern with ministers and their officials and we will be pursuing compensation from the government as we look to recover costs. Clarity is being sought whether these buildings will ever be required.’

Mr Rees-Mogg said a ‘new regime of border import controls’ will be established by the end of 2023.

Downing Street denied the government was edging towards a position where it would unilaterally accept EU controls.

‘That is not the approach we are taking. We are using the flexibility that the UK government has to decide how and when to introduce this approach,’ the prime minister’s official spokesman said.

‘We think there is more work to do on a new model that better utilises data and technology. We are still committed to introducing these checks.’