22 September 2017
Following the Prime Minister’s Brexit address in Florence today in which she set out the UK’s Brexit negotiation priorities, British Ports Association Chief Executive, Richard Ballantyne said that trade facilitation must be given a higher priority in the UK Government’s negotiating position. In her speech Theresa May attempted to break the negotiation deadlock by committing the UK to making financial contributions to the EU up until the conclusion of any implementation period but not beyond.
Commenting Richard Ballantyne said:
“With some notable exceptions, it’s probably fair to say that most of the UK ports are relatively calm about Brexit although the wider impact on the British economy remains unclear.
The challenge will be to find a solution which does not interrupt and delay the UK’s roll-on roll-off ferry traffic which facilitates thousands of lorry journeys between Britain and Europe each day. We are not there yet. By value this traffic represents a high proportion of the UK’s international trade and delays will lead to higher costs for certain businesses and products which ultimately will be felt by traders and even consumers.
We very much welcome intentions in the Government’s Brexit customs negotiating papers published in August however quite how the EU will view these is not yet known. The Government has certainly been listening to industry. UK Ministers must now decide if they want give our future trade arrangements the highest priority in the Brexit negotiations as until now some of the more politically sensitive issues have held their focus.”
In terms of the actual requirements the need to negate new customs declarations for EU trade and an agreement on common plant and animal health standards will be vital. These are needed to ensure that the large amount of food and agricultural products being transported between the UK and the EU is not subject to bureaucratic and costly checks and delays at the border, which could bring a number of the UK’s busiest ports to a standstill.