Portsmouth facing £93k a week 'Brexit bill' if government doesn't step in, council chief warns

CITY leaders are being forced to stump up an extra £215,000 to prepare for a no-deal Brexit and face finding a further £93,000 a week if the government doesn’t step in.

Tuesday, 17th September 2019, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 17th September 2019, 8:25 am
Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, left, pictured with transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris at Portsmouth International Ferry Port. Photo: Portsmouth City Council.

That was the stark warning given to transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris when he visited Portsmouth International Ferry Port.

The news comes amid renewed fears extra security checks at the port could cause traffic to queue onto the M275, grinding city roads to a halt and harming the economy.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council, was worried by the potential chaos facing the city.

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He said: ‘The level of shambles that the Department for Transport seems to be in at the moment is beyond belief.

‘To quote Rowan Atkinson “I’m not sure I could trust them to sit the right way on the lavatory”.’

Last year, a study by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Resilience Forum (LRF) highlighted ‘significant risks of congestion’ across the area due to added traffic coming to the port.

To counter this, Portsmouth City Council spent £1.13m to run a traffic management plan and create a new lorry park in Tipner.

In a letter to Mr Heaton-Harris, Councillor Vernon-Jackson said the council had received £286,000 of Brexit port funding from Whitehall, leaving an £844,000 shortfall.

The authority had also received a £315,000 standardised grant for Brexit to cover the costs all councils will face ‘not those specific’ to Portsmouth as a ‘port city’, Cllr Vernon-Jackson said.

But with the threat of a no-deal Brexit still on the horizon, the LRF has reactivated its emergency plan, Operation Transmission.

In his letter to Mr Heaton-Harris, Cllr Vernon-Jackson wrote: ‘The costs associated with running Operation Transmission just in Portsmouth are £93,000 per week and there are mobilisation costs of £45,000.

‘I have already had to agree to funding of £215,000 as initial preparations’

However, former council leader Donna Jones insisted Portsmouth port would be a ‘winner’ in a no-Brexit scenario.

She said ‘At the last briefing I was at with Mike Sellers, the port director, he made it clear there would be “winners and losers” at certain ports in the UK.

‘The likes of Dover almost certainly will lose business whereas Portsmouth is flagged to be a winner with extra freight.

‘Portsmouth should bring in more income in the event of a no-deal Brexit which means the council [which owns the port] will have greater profits to spend on public services.’