Cairnryan border post to cost taxpayers £30m to build and operate

Construction of a new border post near the ferry terminals in Cairnryan on the west coast of Scotland is set to cost the taxpayer around £30 million, with plans for it to open in late summer next year, it has emerged.

Plans for the ‘inland border facilities’ are required following Brexit, with the trade deal with the European Union requiring customs checks on various products such as high risk foods and animals.

The border post, which is yet to have a finalised location, will cost £30m to build and to get up and running, according to a new government contract made public on Monday on Public Contracts Scotland.

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The need for the border post was described as a “direct result” of the “reckless approach to Brexit” by the UK Government the Scottish Greens said, with the Scottish Government claiming the bill would be met by the UK Government.

A lorry boards the Larne to Cairnryan P&O European Highlander ferry at Larne Port. At Cairnryan, plans for a border post are set to cost £30m.
A lorry boards the Larne to Cairnryan P&O European Highlander ferry at Larne Port. At Cairnryan, plans for a border post are set to cost £30m.

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Around 400,000 freight vehicles and 400,000 cars travel through the two ports at Cairnryan, operated by Stena Line and P&O Ferries, with links to Belfast and Larne in Northern Ireland.

Concerns about large delays at the ports were raised before the agreement of a trade deal between the EU and the UK in late 2020, with plans agreed to use a nearby airfield as a lorry park if delays at the ports became unmanageable.

The airfield, which is used by light aircraft and was a former RAF base, is owned by the crossbench peer the Earl of Stair at Castle Kennedy and was the location of the temporary lorry park until it was stood down due to low usage.

The location of the more permanent structure, which will be operational for at least five years, is yet to be confirmed, but the airfield is likely to be considered a leading contender.

The former home of the ferry terminal in Stranraer is the preferred location for the border post by Dumfries and Galloway Council and was viewed as an opportunity to redevelop the derelict site, which was left vacant in 2011 when the ports moved seven miles north to Cairnryan.

Reacting to the cost, Scottish Greens co-leader and Europe spokesperson Patrick Harvie said: “The need for this border control post is a direct result of the Tories reckless approach to Brexit and their contempt for the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

"There would be no need for this facility had we stayed in the EU, as voted for by the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland, or even in the single market as Boris Johnson and other Brexiteers said before the referendum.

“The UK Government should be able to take ownership of their own failures and foot the bill for this facility.”

The contract, publicly available on Public Contracts Scotland, states the border post will be “much more” than inspection or warehouse facilities and must comply with strict biosecurity measures and be able to handle a wide variety of vehicle sizes and goods.

It states: “Scottish ministers are responsible for the enforcement of checks on animals, plants, plant products, product of animal origin and high risk foods not of animal origin in Scotland and require an IBF close to the ferry terminals at Cairnryan and Loch Ryan … a major port of entry to Scotland from the island of Ireland.

“In most cases port operators provide the necessary infrastructure. However, the ferry terminals at Cairnryan do not have the physical space to accommodate additional facilities and so, in accordance with the UK Border Operating Model, it is for government to provide facilities at an inland site.

“It is anticipated that the facility will be operational for at least five years and it is Scottish ministers’ intention to award the operation and maintenance contracts to cover the full five-year duration.”

The £30m contract will cover the cost of construction of the border post as an “entirely new structure”, alongside the provision of electricity, plumbing, waste removal and cleaning services, as well as security, traffic marshalling and logistics.

Responding, a Scottish Government spokesperson said a number of potential sites were still being considered for the border post, with the cost of the border post to be paid for by the UK Government.

He said: “As a consequence of the hard Brexit deal negotiated by the UK Government, the Scottish Government now has to establish facilities in the Loch Ryan area to inspect animals, plants, food and feed – for which responsibility is devolved – arriving in Scotland from the Republic of Ireland and the wider EU via Northern Ireland.

“A number of potential sites are currently being considered.

“The figure published provides an indication to potential suppliers as to the value of contracts that may be tendered for as the project progresses.

“Scottish ministers have been assured that UK Government will honour its commitment that costs associated with Brexit will be met by the UK Government.”

An HMRC spokesperson said: “HMRC is exploring the need for an inland border facility in Scotland.

“Should there be a need, we will work closely with our partners in Scottish Government to identify a suitable site and streamline customs facilities where possible.”

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