Following the publication of separate research by Maritime UK and the Institute of Directors which found that many business leaders think that a ‘no deal’ Brexit outcome is now likely, the British Ports Association’s Chief Executive, Richard Ballantyne has called for renewed emphasis on cross border trade facilitation.
Mr Ballantyne said: “The research underlines the growing feeling a ‘no deal’ is a real possibility which for parts of the ports industry, namely Roll-on Roll-off port operations, could be a real challenge. The Checkers agreement and the Brexit White Paper proposals offered a solution to the challenge of possible new customs and borders checks but recent comments by Michel Barnier has left this concept in limbo. Without concessions on both sides, the fluidity of tens of thousands of freight vehicles which travel between the UK and the EU on a daily basis is at stake. We would encourage both sides to strike an agreement which works for ports in the UK and the EU.”
On a ‘no deal’ outcome Mr Ballantyne said: “It is sensible that the Government considers all outcomes but it should now start to seriously plan for the allocation of funding for post Brexit physical and electronic border infrastructure to ensure ports are free flowing on day one.”
The implications of leaving the EU Customs Union and Single Market means that without an agreement goods travelling to and from Europe will be subject to new authorisations and other requirements. Traders will need to undertake new border processes which could be most challenging for freight on lorries travelling through our ‘roll-on roll-off’ ferry port gateways, such as Dover, Holyhead, Immingham and Portsmouth. Ro-Ro ports collectively facilitate the majority of the UK’s EU trade. Mr Ballantyne continued:
“The EU negotiators have indicated that some type of free trade deal is highly possible but this is likely to cover tariffs and not cross border controls. Non tariff barriers have always been our main concern.”
For most other types of ports handling bulks and containerised cargo, the likely new customs procedures should be relatively straightforward to achieve. However there are still questions around other frontier inspections such as port health standards which are mandated under EU law and without agreement will be difficult to overcome, particularly in respect of the UK’s exports through the EU.
There will of course be opportunities for IT solutions to customs procedures but all those in the logistics chain will need to assess how they will meet the new arrangements. The Government will need to look further at what it can do to limit any negative impacts, such as border delays. It will be important that trade to and from the EU continues as efficiently as it does today and that there are no additional costs for those in the logistics sector.