British Ports Association CEO Richard Ballantyne has called for renewed emphasis on cross-border trade facilitation, reports Portnews.
Following the publication of research from Maritime UK and the Institute of Directors which found that many business leaders thought a ‘no deal’ Brexit outcome was now more likely than not, Ballantyne said that “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”. Ballantyne noted that the recent cabinet “agreement” at Chequers and the Brexit White Paper proposals offered a solution to the challenge of possible new customs and borders checks, but said that recent comments by EU negotiator Michel Barnier had left the 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”, said Ballantyne. He urged that both sides strike an agreement which works for ports in the UK and the EU.
Ballantyne said that it was “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”.
Without an agreement, goods travelling to and from Europe would be subject to new authorizations 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” said Ballantyne, noting that Ro-Ro ports collectively facilitated the majority of the UK’s EU trade.
“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.”
He said that for most other types of ports, handling bulks and containerised cargo, the likely new customs procedures should be relatively straightforward to achieve. However, there remained questions relating to other frontier inspections, such as port health standards. These were mandated under EU law; without agreement they would be difficult to overcome, particularly in respect of the UK’s exports through the EU.