A last resort plan to deal with extra lorries at Portsmouth International Port in the event of a no-deal Brexit has been outlined by the Hampshire Local Resilience Forum and the impact on Basingstoke could be significant.
Council bosses have been warned that up to 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 this week 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 scheme, from Hampshire’s Local Resilience Forum (LRF), would allow for 10,000 lorries to be parked on the M3 south of Basingstoke.
The LRF has suggested the 10,000 lorries could be parked between Dummer and Winchester, in the event of hold-ups caused by longer customs checks at Portsmouth International Port. The LRF said the plan could help relieve congestion caused by longer customs checks at the International Port.
The body – comprising the emergency services and local authorities – said other traffic would be diverted on to the A30 and the A33. It added alternative holding areas for lorries were being considered, including a preferred option of land at Dunsbury Park, Havant which is closer to the port.
The proposal has been met with widespread disapproval.
Assistant Chief Constable Dave Hardcastle, said: “Our least preferred option is stacking lorries on the strategic road network, and we continue to work with Highways England to look for the least disruptive area.”
Hampshire Constabulary, a member of the LRF, confirmed the idea was a last resort.
Highways England said it would have “significant concerns with any suggested plan that proposed it”.
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 and surrounding area. Mr Sellers also said that the customs infrastructure required for a no-deal would not be in place by the end of March.
Sir Vince Cable responded: “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.”
In a statement, the Department for Transport said it was: “working to establish the potential impact of additional freight on the city of Portsmouth, to ensure we are prepared for all possible outcomes”.
MPs will vote on the government’s proposed Brexit deal on 15 January.