I've received the following letter from The Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for the Department of Transport.
His letter makes clear that the concerns around Portsmouth's port and lorry stacking are utter tosh.
See the letter below, and for those who need a text version, below is the text from that letter.
I wanted to write to you following the recent and wholly false press reports about closure of the M3 and the potential use of a ‘STACK’ arrangement and set out the true position. It has been reported that my Department was preparing plans to stack vehicles on the M3 in a “no-deal” Brexit scenario as a way of handling traffic disruption in the event of any delays arising from disruption at Portsmouth.
Of course, it remains my hope that the Withdrawal Agreement agreed with the European Union in December will be approved by the House next week.
However, until the UK has signed the Withdrawal Agreement, it is the duty of a responsible government to continue to prepare for the possibility of the UK leaving the EU without an agreement.
Given the scale of traffic and the “turn up and go” arrangements at the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel, the focus of our scenario planning is very much on Kent. It is possible that there could be some freight traffic disruption in Kent in the event of a no-deal, if additional customs checks were introduced in Calais, Coquelles and Dunkirk, where freight services disembark. In the past the M20 has been closed under Operation STACK, as a way of handling freight traffic queues resulting from disruption to Dover-Calais or Channel Tunnel services. My department has been working in close partnership with the Kent Resilience Forum to develop an alternative to closing the M20 entirely, and we are confident in our new operational plan Operation BROCK which keeps the M20 open for non-freight traffic.
The situation at other ports is very different. Even if there were to be some redistribution of freight traffic from the Dover Strait we do not expect significant delays resulting from border checks at other EU ports to be a major issue.
The situation on the Dover Strait is unique given the exceptionally high volume of HGVs using it, the frequent ferry crossings, rapid turn-around of ferry services and space restrictions meaning the overall capacity could be at risk to any significant increases in the time taken for border checks. We do not consider there are the same risks at other ports.
Highways England deal with incidents on the strategic road network every day and have robust contingency plans in place for a wide range of potential eventualities. These include routine measures taken ahead of periods of peak traffic – such as the Christmas and summer getaways – as well as the ability to respond as unexpected circumstances arise. I have asked Highways England to continue to engage with all relevant Local Resilience Forums about these plans and to help assure they are able to cope with a range of circumstances in a no-deal scenario.
Highways England’s core task is, and will remain, to keep the road network operating as efficiently and effectively as possible. We therefore have no plans whatsoever to close the M3 or any other roads outside Kent in a no- deal scenario. We do not think this would be needed and if there is any disruption there are better ways of dealing with this than by closing strategic roads.
I hope this provides some useful information and reassurance for you on what we are and are not doing.
Rt Hon. Chris Grayling MP
SECRETARY OF STATE FOR TRANSPORT