The UK and EU have struck a “last-minute” deal on Brexit that prevents a hard border on the island of Ireland but includes a divorce bill that could reach up to GBP 39 billion (USD 52.3 billion).
Maritime bodies in the UK welcomed the end of the political drama, expressing hope that the deal would be a basis for continuation of talks on trading relations.
“Negotiators may have cut it fine, but industry will welcome the fact that we can now progress to the most important stage of the negotiations; discussing our future relations,” David Dingle CBE, Chairman of Maritime UK, said.
“It remains our aim that we secure as frictionless a trading relationship as possible. This is in the interests of both sides of the Channel. Failure to get that frictionless 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,” he added.
The maritime sector players feel that the UK should continue both its current economic participation and form in the single market and customs union during a transitional period as the simplest way to secure stability for the industry.
What is more, the sector believes that the transition period should last until a new deal is in force, and serve as a vehicle to transition to the terms set out in the new deal.
Commenting on the Brexit ‘breakthrough’ deal, Guy Platten, CEO of the UK Chamber of Shipping, said the language of the agreement “may be something of a fudge,” but that both sides have eventually shown some flexibility and pragmatism, which should be kept in further stages of talks as well.
“It is important to remember that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, so there must be no assumption that the next stage will be easier. For that reason it is vital that European and British negotiators remember that open, free and fair trade is the best form of diplomacy, and a comprehensive trade relationship that allows goods to move through our ports without delay should be the target if we are to ensure long-term cooperation and friendship,” Platten continued.
“We cannot begin to plan for any transition, until we know what it is we are transitioning towards. For that reason we hope detailed trade discussions can begin swiftly, without delay, and without political posturing.”
The British Ports Association’s Chief Executive, Richard Ballantyne, called for focus on overcoming border disruption and the introduction of non-tariff barriers as part of any free trade negotiations.
“There is a still a long way to go of course and we remain concerned that new customs requirements could cause particular challenges for roll-on roll-off ferry ports which handle tens of thousands HGVs travelling between the UK and the EU each day,” Ballantyne pointed out.
“We would encourage both sides to explore options that ensure the cross border solution for the Irish land border is replicated elsewhere in the UK, this would enable trade with Europe to pass as smoothly as possible through our ports,” he added.
Ports have been at the forefront of discussions when policy makers in the UK and the EU have been examining the potential consequences of leaving the EU. The impacts of leaving the EU Customs Union and Single Market could be substantial.
Fears have been raised that potential customs and bureaucratic checks at the border could congest the ports and result in delays at certain ports adding costs for traders, manufacturers and consumers.
Today’s deal means that the UK is moving towards an agreement which could limit but not totally rule out these impacts, the association said.