Shambolic Brexit could force Portsmouth to transform historic military site into lorry park, council boss warns

THE government's shambolic handling of the Brexit negotiations could have '˜serious consequences' for Portsmouth, the city's top councillor has warned.

Wednesday, 12th December 2018, 9:02 am
Updated Wednesday, 9th January 2019, 8:26 am
Council leader Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson has raised his concerns about the impact Brexit could have on Portsmouth. Photo: Malcolm Wells

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson has lambasted prime minister Theresa May and her administration for '˜making a total mess' of Brexit.

Speaking during Portsmouth City Council full council meeting today, the Lib Dem leader feared for the island's future.

His comments come after Theresa May sensationally pulled the plug on a vote in the House of Commons over her Brexit deal, which was due to take place today.

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Council leader Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson has raised his concerns about the impact Brexit could have on Portsmouth. Photo: Malcolm Wells

The prime minister axed the vote late yesterday afternoon amid reports she would have have suffered an embarrassing defeat had it gone to MPs.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said he was growing increasingly weary of the whole situation and told councillors: '˜The total mess of Brexit will have serious consequences for this city.

'˜We will have to see if we can weather them but so far the government's inability to put the national interest above party interest fills me with foreboding.'

As well as raising his growing concerns over Brexit, Cllr Vernon-Jackson also said he was worried about how the city's economy would develop.

And the politician, who backed remaining in the European Union in the 2016 referendum, lashed out at the government for not addressing concerns about preparing the city for the prospect of increased security at its international port '“ and the travel chaos and delays it could cause.

He said Portsmouth was now having to consider '˜concreting over' an historic piece of the city's military heritage to create a '˜emergency parking for lorries'.

'˜The economic development of the city is key to our city's future, especially in the uncertain world of Brexit,' he told councillors. '˜We face the real prospect that we will have to concrete over large areas of the firing range at Tipner to provide emergency parking for lorries trying to export British goods abroad.

'˜I deeply regret that the Department of Transport has chosen not to work with this council in thinking about the preparations needed.

'˜The Chief Constable wrote to the department in August asking for assistance and has heard nothing since.

'˜A UK strategy based purely on thinking about Dover will not work. Our ferry port carries over 250,000 lorries a year between the UK and the Europe. If turnaround times for ferries double or triple we are all in for traffic nightmares.'

Portsmouth City Council's Labour leader, Councillor Stephen Morgan '“ who is also Portsmouth South MP '“ did not attend the meeting, instead choosing to appear in parliament.

However, Cllr Vernon-Jackson did not criticise his opposite number and instead said: '˜Whatever the mess the government has made about having a Brexit vote today I will not attack Stephen Morgan for not being here today.

'˜In my view he has taken the right decision to be in Westminster today when such nationally important decisions are being made.'