POLITICS
18/05/2018 14:39 BST

Brexit Ministers Have Only Bothered To Visit 8 Out Of 120 UK Ports In Two Years

At this rate it will take 25 years to cover them all.

PA Archive/PA Images
A container at the Port of Southampton 

Brexit ministers have visited just eight of the UK’s 120 ports since the vote to leave the EU, it has emerged.

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in the Department for Exiting the EU, revealed in response to a written question that only a handful of commercial hubs had been assessed by the government as part of its preparations to leave the union in 10 months’ time.  

They include two visits to the Port of Southampton, including one by Braverman herself, who has also visited Dover.

Fellow Parliamentary under-secretary of state Robin Walker travelled to Belfast Harbour and Clwyd West MP David Jones - who has since lost his job in the department - visted the Port of Liverpool. 

Brexit secretary David Davis has made just one port visit, to Teesport in North Yorkshire alongside Braverman earlier this year.

Parliament website
The full response to the Parliamentary question

The average time between visits - 78 days - means that if ministers were to continue at the current rate, it would take them nearly a quarter of a century to visit the 112 remaining commercial hubs.

Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, a champion of the pro-Europe Best For Britain campaign, told HuffPost UK: “Astonishingly, given the importance of how this country will be affected by new customs arrangements, this government has visited just eight ports since the 2016 referendum.

“The fact is that, at the current speed, it would take over 25 years to visit all the commercial ports in this country just goes to show how low a priority fishing is for Theresa May and her government.

“Brexit is not turning out as people wanted. This is not the first time the fishing industry has been burned by the government’s Brexit chiefs, and probably won’t be the last.”

The department insisted that “ministers from across government have carried out extensive engagement on EU exit - with businesses and industry bodies from all sectors of the economy and in all parts of the UK, including representatives from UK ports”.

Dan Kitwood via Getty Images
Layla Moran

Chancellor Philip Hammond admitted last year that waits of even a few extra minutes for customs checks to be carried out at British ports could wreak havoc on the industry. 

Asked by a Lords committee if he believed the capacity of UK ports were “adequate” to handle an increased workload, he said: “No it’s clearly not. Anyone who’s visited Dover will know that Dover operates as a flow-through port and volumes of trade at Dover could not accommodated if goods had to be held for inspection even, I suspect, if they were held for minutes, it would still impede the operation of the port.

“Roll-on, roll-off traffic at Dover is predicated on trucks rolling off a ferry immediately, [going] out of the port and the ferry reloading and departing pretty rapidly – Ryanair style turnaround times.”

The government is yet to decide on its proposals for a new customs plan post-Brexit - which must then be approved by senior EU negotiators.