Maritime UK and members representing the British Ports Association, UK Chamber of Shipping, Baltic Exchange, and Solent LEP met with Hilary Benn MP, Chair of the parliamentary Exiting the EU Committee, on Wednesday, to explore a potential no-deal scenario on Brexit. The meeting highlighted that a possible failure to secure a deal will not only see delays and disruption at UK ports but also in other ports in EU such as Zeebrugge, Calais and Dublin.
The meeting followed government’s publication of its papers on customs and trade on Monday.
“Today’s discussions with Hilary Benn were useful – both in terms of understanding Parliament’s role in the Brexit process, and in ensuring his awareness of the maritime sector’s priorities,” said David Dingle CBE, Chairman of Maritime UK.
As informed, the maritime sector is responsible for enabling 95% of the UK’s global trade, supports just under 1 million jobs and contributes around £40bn to UK GDP.
The country seeks several customs benefits after Brexit, but EU is yet to agree with the relevant terms. In view of this, the UK government has issued documents revealing a contingency plan in case the agreement fails.
Mr. Dingle noted: “Whilst it’s welcome and prudent that the government is actively preparing for a no-deal scenario, we want to see maximum effort being dedicated to achieving a successful deal. A successful deal preserves as many of the current benefits of the customs union as possible.”
Further, he underlined that failure to secure a deal will not only see delays and disruption at ports like Dover, Holyhead and Portsmouth, but also in the EU at ports like Zeebrugge, Calais and Dublin.
Given this risk, it may be equally prudent to explore an extension to the Article 50 deadline to allow for these complex negotiations to succeed, Mr Dingle suggested.
“We urge both sides to be pragmatic and to make real progress soon”, he said, but added: “We recognise that a new and unique agreement requires political will from both sides, but it is wholly in the interests of both the UK and EU to deliver that.”
Of the two options outlined in the ‘Future Customs Arrangement’ paper of 15th August, the maritime sector favours a new and unique Customs agreement between the UK and EU.