TOP-tier council leaders from across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are frantically working together as fears over a no-deal Brexit continue to mount – with special concerns over travel chaos raised.
Hampshire County Council leader Roy Perry met with Portsmouth City Council Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson, as well as counterparts from the Isle of Wight and Southampton City Council as they prepare for the UK's departure from the EU on March 29.
Traffic mayhem is one of the biggest fears among leaders resulting from delays to cross-Channel ferries at Portsmouth Port, especially if traffic is re-routed from Dover. This could have a damaging knock-on effect across the county, it is thought.
The leaders have written to Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling to outline their concerns, as well as Prime Minister Theresa May and all Hampshire and Isle of Wight MPs.
They have called for better engagement from Highways England and the Ministry of Defence, which owns land that may be of use as a holding space for lorries.
The port transports up to 500 lorries abroad each day which will increase dramatically if traffic diverts from other ports. Under a no-deal Brexit delays are likely to be even worse if lorries need extra customs clearance before travelling on a ferry.
Worryingly, the distance between the freight check-in desk at the port and the beginning of the motorway is just 13 lorry lengths – resulting in the increased likelihood of queuing traffic on the motorway.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘The issues Brexit will bring are going to affect more than one council area and it's important we work together to ensure our areas are as resilient as possible to the challenges ahead.
‘By coordinating our efforts we can avoid duplication and minimise costs so no more money than necessary is diverted from already stretched council budgets and vital services.
Cllr Perry said: ‘As a leading export county, I want to ensure that collectively, we do all we can to support international trade, jobs and businesses by taking the practical steps needed to respond effectively to whatever the outcome of Brexit may be.
‘In the meantime, we will continue developing our contingency plans to ensure that any potential short term adverse impact on local communities, is minimised, and that our residents, including the most vulnerable, are able to receive the goods and services they need.’
Concerns over a lack of plans for a no-deal Brexit were raised to Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan by Hampshire Chamber of Commerce.
Mr Morgan said: ‘In a no-deal scenario, many businesses would cut investment and recruitment, or move some of their operations elsewhere.’