Top-tier council leaders in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight have written to ministers to warn of post-Brexit disruption to their transport networks and ask the Government and Highways England to do more.
Hampshire, Portsmouth, Southampton and Isle of Wight councils said they anticipate that the biggest problem will be traffic congestion resulting from delays to cross-Channel ferries at Portsmouth International Port, which could then have knock-on effect across the county, especially if traffic is re-routed from Dover.
Ferries at the mouth of the port at Portsmouth
Their leaders have written to transport secretary Chris Grayling to highlight their concerns and request support, including ‘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 councils said their concerns have also been highlighted to the prime minister and the region’s MPs.
Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald 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.’
According to the councils, Portsmouth International Port currently transports up to 500 lorries a day abroad but this will increase significantly if traffic diverts from other ports.
They said that under a no-deal Brexit, delays are likely if lorries need extra customs clearance before embarking on a ferry, something not currently required for vehicles travelling to EU countries.
The councils pointed out that the distance between the freight check-in desk at Portsmouth International Port and the beginning of the M275 is just 13 lorry lengths, so a queue of 14 lorries or more would mean queuing traffic on the motorway.
Hampshire County Council leader Roy 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.’
Southampton City Council leader Christopher Hammond said: ‘There are still many uncertainties about what our relationship will be with the EU and the full consequences of a no-deal Brexit. Despite this, Southampton City Council is working proactively with neighbouring authorities to mitigate a range of possible impacts for our region’s residents and businesses.’
'Locally, we’re working with the Port of Southampton and Connect partners to plan for any detrimental traffic impact in the city and the surrounding area which might be caused by an increase in HGV movements across the Solent network.'