British Ports comments on ‘Customs Backstop’

The British Ports Association has welcomed the publication of the UK Government’s  temporary customs Brexit proposal, known as the ‘customs backstop’.

Commenting on the development, the BPA Chief Executive, Richard Ballantyne, said:

“This arrangement will give ports and freight operators a measure of short-term certainty. It is now essential that Government makes progress on our long-term customs and other border arrangements.

“There is still an urgent need for clarity on non-customs checks, which account for three-quarters of border stoppages. These have the potential to cause huge disruption.

“We look forward to the passage of the EU Withdrawal Bill next week and hope that, whether various amendments are passed or defeated, we will have a clearer picture of what happens next.

“We urge the Government to speed up progress with the planned customs white paper to clarify our future relationship with the EU. We have made clear that, of the Government’s two proposed policies, the customs partnership represents almost business as usual at the border for UK-EU trade, but whatever arrangement we choose it is vital there is time for ports to adapt to avoid disruption.

“Ports need to know sooner rather than later what this relationship will look like and we will continue to work with Government behind the scenes on ensuring that the transition is as smooth as possible”

The BPA has welcomed the Government’s aim of seeking compatibility with the EU on plant and animal health standards, which could lead to potetial challenges for some ports and particularly at Roll-on Roll-off ferry terminals. This is a vital part of ensuring trade continues to flow freely through our ports after Brexit. Under present EU rules, plant and animal products could be subject to a hugely disruptive inspection regime at the border. This could be problematic for all types of port handling such European trade but the most challenging would be in respect of HGVs at ports such as Dover, Holyhead and Portsmouth. To require lorries to stop and undergo time-consuming inspections at ports would lead to significant disruption at the border and create congestion around ports.

The BPA has consistently argued that the free flow of goods through our ports must not be disrupted. This is especially critical at Roll-on Rlol-off ferry ports, where goods on HGVs are used to driving off the ship and out of the port virtually uninterrupted. These ports facilitate the trades of consumer goods, perishable cargoes and ‘just in time’ freight. Any form of customs or other regulatory checks has the potential to disrupt these important ‘just in time’ supply chains. If there are to be border checks, we have argued that they should be carried out away from port bottlenecks.