Supply chains: armed forces could be called upon as ‘final backstop’

MILITARY help would be available if there was overwhelming disruption to supply chains into Guernsey after the UK’s Brexit transition period ends at the end of the year.

Brexit Seminar by the Chamber of Commerce at the OGH with expert insight from the States of Guernsey’s Brexit team, led by Chris Morris, Head of Trade Relations and Engagement for the States of Guernsey. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 28977195)
Brexit Seminar by the Chamber of Commerce at the OGH with expert insight from the States of Guernsey’s Brexit team, led by Chris Morris, Head of Trade Relations and Engagement for the States of Guernsey. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 28977195)

Officials confirmed the armed forces could be called upon but only as ‘final backstop’.

They signalled such a step was unlikely with systems already in place to ensure freight continues to flow with no or little disruption after 31 December.

Concerns have been raised supply chains could come under pressure as new border and customs controls come into force between the UK and EU, clogging up trucks on key trade routes, when the transition period finishes.

At a briefing to the business community, States of Guernsey officials working on Brexit planning yesterday set out the ‘multi-layered’ approach taken to safeguard supply chains.

The Guernsey Chamber of Commerce event heard that this includes close working with freight and ferry firms, the UK government, local businesses and calling on military assistance as a backstop if necessary.

Asked by the Guernsey Press about reports earlier this year of potential RAF airdrops, Channel Islands emergency planning officer Kevin Murphy said: ‘It’s a great headline-grabber. It’s not really relevant and it’s not very realistic.

‘We have done an awful lot of planning. We have access to all the UK Government, we work very closely with them. We have done this for a number of years now, we have finessed our plan.

‘The very final backstop is we do have assistance from the military if needed, along with every other local resilience forum in the UK. We hope we never have to use it. But it’s always there as a comfort blanket at the end. But we have multiple layers, both locally and nationally, that we can apply to this before we need to go there.’

Those steps include a priority system for trucks bound for our shores via the International Port of Portsmouth, which is a key link for the Channel Islands.

Chris Morris, international trade relations lead at the States of Guernsey, explained such vehicles will ‘have a window sticker and will be triaged, and will be able to go through any road disruption and there will be as free as possible flow of goods in and out of the islands’.

‘So we’re expecting, very little or minimal disruption for the supply chain between the Port of Portsmouth and the island’.

He also said there were ‘tested, rigorous procedures’ in place with a special coordinating group working hard and prepared both for previous Brexit events and the pandemic, with different levels of response depending on the situation.

The States could look to local businesses for help here, for example, or plug into corresponding coordinating groups in the UK if the issue was there. Those UK groups were also testing any services and obligations that had in respect for to coverage for the Crown Dependencies – in particular Jersey and Guernsey.

‘We can escalate into requests for military assistance, if that is required. But we would have to be in a serious amount of trouble before we looked at military assistance. And we would have had to have exhausted all opportunity available to us locally and domestically to resolve the problem that we were facing before we look at that kind of request for support,’ added Mr Morris.

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