British ports welcome funding but looking political agreement between the UK and EU

Following the announcement today that the UK Government has opened a new grants scheme for infrastructure modifications at ports in preparation for a ‘no deal’ Brexit, the British Ports Association has welcomed the funding but suggested that at this late stage a deal was the best way to avoid potential disruptions at the border.

The Department for Transport is launching a new £10m Port Infrastructure Resilience and Connectivity Fund for English Ports in the run up to 31 October 2019. This fund will allow ports to bid for grants of up to £1m each for infrastructure improvements to help prepare for the potential new processes and possible congestion which could arise in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

Commenting on the funding the British Ports Association’s Chief Executive, Richard Ballantyne said:

“We welcome this new funding for ports which a number of operators will apply for to help prepare for Brexit.

British ports have been working closely with the UK Government for the last three years on a range of Brexit scenarios. The industry is as ready as it can be for a ‘no deal’ although it is clear that this is about mitigating disruption at certain ports, not avoiding it.

The potential challenges are not only for the likes of Dover but also other ports such as Holyhead, Immingham and Portsmouth that handle a mix of driven and unaccompanied vehicle freight between the UK and the EU, which currently flows through ports swiftly. There could also be wider issues for other ports which will rely on the HMRC’s systems to handle a huge increase in customs data.

Ports are of course though only one part, albeit an important component, of the logistics chain. We rely on others – freight forwarders, hauliers, agents, Government agencies – to also be ready for what is an unprecedented level of change potentially coming in with little or no notice.

A ‘no deal’ would certainly appear to be more of a possibility now and it is prudent to plan for this potential outcome. However while we are not a political organisation we remain firmly of the view that a deal that supports frictionless, free-flowing frontiers is the best outcome and as far as we are aware this is still the Government’s aim. We still hope that the UK and EU can come to a sensible arrangement ahead of the deadline.”

This funding follows the Department’s previously announced Freight Capacity Framework initiative which is aimed at shipping and ferry operators and securing category one goods such as medicines. Separately the Government has announced money for councils in the run up to 31 October 2019.