One year to Brexit: Firms demand clarity over Portsmouth port

Bethany Kelly, left, and Dani Hackett behind the bar at Beerex in 2016' Picture: Ian Hargreaves (160551-3)

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BUSINESSES need uncertainties to be cleared up around Brexit plans if ‘frictionless’ trade at the city’s port can continue, it has been warned.

Today marks one year to Brexit day on March 29, 2019 – although a two-year transitional period will kick in on exiting the European Union.

Ferry Port.13-06-01.013063-2.photo ian hargreaves.'''A freight lorry leaves The Pride of Le Havre cross channel ferry after berthing at Portsmouth's Continental Ferry Port. MAYOAK0003133577

Ferry Port.13-06-01.013063-2.photo ian hargreaves.'''A freight lorry leaves The Pride of Le Havre cross channel ferry after berthing at Portsmouth's Continental Ferry Port. MAYOAK0003133577

To mark the day, The News has spoken to politicians, industry leaders and experts about the talks so far.

Concerns have been raised that ports must not be an ‘after-thought’ in Brexit talks.

Nigel Wonnacott, from Brittany Ferries, said: ‘Businesses that operate in the south and southwest rely on easy access to markets, rapid movement of goods and as little red tape as possible.

‘So ports like Portsmouth must not be an after-thought in planning for frictionless trade post-Brexit.’

He said small haulage firms are on the ‘front line’ and everyone must be heard.

Freight firm 2mv Logistics, based in Farlington and which has 30 staff, said it is waiting to potentially invest in using the city’s port – but is holding back until rules on customs will be finalised.

Graham Truckel, sales manager at the firm, said: ‘We’re sitting here ready to put things in force waiting to spend money, to put systems and resources in place, but we can’t until we know what needs to be done.

‘We do look upon it as potentially a big opportunity, not only for us as an individual company but the service provision too.’

In January prime minister Theresa May said she wants the ‘freest possible trade in goods’ between Britain and EU member states – but warned it ‘cannot mean membership of the single market’.

Portsmouth’s port director Mike Sellers said: ‘Portsmouth is the second busiest cross-channel ferry port in the country. We want to make sure we’re considered when discussions take place.

‘Minimising any impact on our customers is important to ensure a smooth transition when Brexit is implemented.’

Liberal Democrat group leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘The issue we are being told about there is not so much the worry about passengers coming through, it’s more about customs and agricultural produce.

‘The ferry port has very little space. If there are more inspections that will produce delays and that will mean queues trying to get into the city or on the M275.’

Councillor Donna Jones said the council was working closely with the Department for Exiting the EU. She said: ‘There is still a huge amount of detail for the government to finalise with the EU negotiators and some of that affects ports such as Portsmouth as we are what we call a roll-on/roll-off port.’

She said bigger car parks could be built at the port to deal with extra security checks, if they are brought in.