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The decision by the government to defer border checks on EU imports has led to threats of legal action by British ports that invested millions of pounds to create control facilities.

Logistics firm PML said it was also now considering legal action as a result of the U-turn.

The border controls were due to come into force on 1 July but in April the government announced they were being put on hold until at least the end of next year.

Portsmouth Council, which owns Portsmouth Port, borrowed £7.8m for its border controls and the leader of the council said it would “absolutely” take legal action to recover the money: “It’s costing a million pounds a year to run and that was meant to be funded by the people using it - now the government says no one needs to use it,” said Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson.

“How am I meant to find a million-pounds from that? It will have to come from council taxpayers here in Portsmouth.

“It’s down to the government to sort out this mess.”

Logistics provider PML said it had incurred significant costs in order to stay ahead of the planned changes and the government’s decision would mean many freight forwarders were now “seriously out of pocket”.

Mike Parr, PML MD, said: “Surely the government has to acknowledge its role in playing with people’s livelihoods and accepting that the mistakes it has made have had dire financial consequences for many?

“The sector that is the backbone to Britain’s future has been treated appallingly."