Brexit hardball from UK; ports warn that “clock is ticking”

With the UK on Monday September 7th setting a deadline of mid-October for a deal, and planning to introduce a parliamentary bill that would rip up a previous agreement on internal UK trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the British Ports Association (BPA) has warned that time was short to prepare UK border infrastructure ahead of an increasingly likely no-deal departure from the EU at the end of the year.

Eleven customs, freight and logistics industry organizations published a letter last week addressed to Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, warning that there could be severe disruption to the movement of goods come January 1st 2021.

The logistics industry’s letter to Gove urged the convening of a meeting between the organizations, Gove, with Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and transport secretary Grant Shapps to discuss the sector’s concerns.

A no-deal end to the transition period would mandate strict border controls, which it was feared could generate severe congestion at some ports, particularly Dover.

BPA chief executive Richard Ballantyne said that he welcomed the recent legislation that was designed to speed up preparations by bypassing planning processes.

The Town and Country Planning (Border Facilities and Infrastructure) (EU Exit) (England) Special Development Order 2020 lists more than two dozen council areas in which lorry parks can be built rapidly.

Ballantyne said that “we want to see a swift roll-out of the government’s infrastructure ambitions so that our gateways to Europe are ready, but there could also need to be some pragmatism. There is now a huge amount of government activity in this area, but the clock is certainly ticking.”

New physical and digital infrastructure is being prepared to enable new and unfamiliar customs and border processes on freight travelling between Great Britain and EU nations. Preparations for Northern Irish traffic, which could be particularly problematic, is also in train.