Vince Cable Warned Of No-Deal Lorry Chaos on Portsmouth Port Visit

8 January 2019, 14:10 | Updated: 8 January 2019, 14:13

Vince Cable in Portsmouth

Council bosses have been warned that a 20-mile southbound stretch of the M3 motorway could be closed to cope with backed-up lorries at Portsmouth's ferry port in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

The "worst-case scenario" was revealed to Sir Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, as he visited Portsmouth International Port to learn of preparations for the UK's departure from the European Union.

The Hampshire port currently handles 500 lorries a day, but this is set to at least double in the case of a no-deal as it is set to relieve some of the burden faced by Dover.

Port director Mike Sellers explained that the distance from the freight gates to the motorway network was only 13 lorry lengths, and the introduction of any delays to processing vehicles on to ferries could lead to lorries backing up on to the motorways.

He warned this could cause major traffic problems for the city, including the naval base and hospitals.

He said that attempts to use nearby land as a lorry park and processing area had been thwarted because the MoD had refused to release the land, although another site 20 minutes away had been located but did not have the required infrastructure in place.

Mr Sellers also said that the customs infrastructure required for a no-deal would not be in place by the end of March.

He said: "Portsmouth is seen as one of the high-risk ports that could be impacted from the no-deal and we want to be Brexit-ready even in a no-deal.

"There is an awful lot of infrastructure that needs to be put in place, and the cost, and whether that will be in place by the end of March is another question, and who is going to pay for it.

"If the M275 motorway is blocked with lorries, this is the main route into the city, it does impact on people getting in and out of the city, this is a naval port as well, you have the Royal Navy, people getting into work, the hospitals, it would very quickly impact on the whole of the Portsmouth city area."

Sir Vince said: "What I am very concerned about is that the Government simply hasn't thought through this no-deal Brexit that they talk about, it is a very amateurish Dad's Army approach.

"The problem here is that Portsmouth will have to take considerably more lorries, they have to get through quickly, there will be customs checks, there is nowhere at the moment to store the lorries, the Government is taking no interest in demands that there is additional lorry space, there are plans to close the M3 to use it for storage, extreme solutions of that kind."

Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the Liberal Democrat leader of Portsmouth City Council, warned that a no deal would lead to gridlock in the city and said: "We are going to get queues on the motorway and then the whole of the city clogs up."

The Department for Exiting the European Union has been approached for comment.