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Portsmouth supply lines ‘to be prioritised’ under no-deal Brexit

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THE continued delivery of vital supplies to Jersey through Portsmouth will be ‘prioritised’ in the case of a no-deal Brexit, but short-term disruption is still possible, the government has said.

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Last week SandpiperCI chief executive Tony O’Neil questioned how prepared the Island was for Brexit, claiming that he had had virtually no communication from the government about preventing possible food shortages.

Mr O’Neil, whose firm runs the Morrisons daily and Marks and Spencer chains, said that he had not had enough reassurance that UK ports would continue to supply freight to Jersey if there was no deal and whether alternative ports to Portsmouth, such as Weymouth and Poole, had been considered.

There have been long-standing concerns that supplies to the Island could be disrupted if no deal to leave the EU is agreed, which could mean Dover becomes over-burdened due to tighter border checks.

This could place a greater workload and delays at other ports such as Portsmouth, from which Jersey receives most of its supplies.

Responding to Mr O’Neil’s comments, a government spokeswoman said the Island had been working with the Hampshire Local Resilience Forum throughout its planning for Brexit, including for a potential no-deal scenario.

‘Hampshire Local Resilience Forum has in all of its plans prioritised the movement of Channel Island-destined freight through Portsmouth and we are confident that there will not be long-term disruption to supplies,’ she said.

‘While we cannot guarantee that there will be no short-term disruption, the additional warehousing provided by the Co-op provides assurance that people, especially those in a more vulnerable position, do not go without.

‘The Government of Jersey has undertaken extensive contingency planning, including, for example, looking at the resilience of the UK supply chain, the options for alternative ports to be used, the options for additional vessels to support current capacity and the options to use the southern supply chain [freight routes from France].’

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Mr O’Neil also said that plans to stockpile ‘£14,000’ of goods in the Co-op’s warehouse was ‘gesture politics’ and that there had been insufficient preparation to use supply routes from France, if necessary.

The government spokeswoman said, however, that a far greater amount of goods would be stockpiled and the £14,000 had been quoted due to a misunderstanding.

‘[The figures quoted] are a misunderstanding between the cost to government of the additional warehousing provided by the Co-op and the actual value of goods warehoused,’ she said.

‘The Co-op’s warehousing is not of, “...only £14,000 of goods”, but a much higher volume, sufficient to extend Jersey’s ambient food supply by around seven days.’

She added that Mr O’Neil was correct that there would be ‘significant challenges and costs’ if Jersey was required to switch from receiving supplies from France rather than the UK.

The government is advising Islanders to stock up on essential goods like they would for bank holiday weekends, in preparation for a no-deal brexit.

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
author

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