UK ports respond to new Brexit deal
The British Ports Association (BPA) and UK Major Ports Group (UKMPG) have responded to the latest EU withdrawal agreement currently awaiting parliamentary approval.
Under the latest deal, Northern Ireland will officially be part of the UK’s customs territory but with an EU/UK customs border in the Irish Sea, meaning that, de facto, NI follows the EU's customs rules. UK customs authorities will check goods at British ports before they enter NI and ensure tariff-free passage provided the final destination remains NI. The Democratic Unionist Party has refused to back the new agreement.
Richard Ballantyne, chief executive of the BPA, has cautiously welcomed the news. “There remains some fundamental issues for ports across Britain and Ireland to manage,” he said.
“We have repeatedly warned that a no-deal Brexit would be unacceptable and we now look forward to a more orderly process and reiterate our view that a future relationship should prioritise the flow of trade at our frontiers. The trade between the island of Ireland and Great Britain is important and particularly that between Northern Ireland and Britain,” he added.
No easy solutions
Tim Morris, chief executive of UKMPG, the trade association for Britain’s largest port operators, said that it was important for all parties to carefully consider the new deal. “Of course practically a mutually agreed departure from the EU is preferable to a sudden dislocation, although the UK’s robust and adaptable ports sector has been working hard to prepare for disruption from any scenario,” he said.
“It's important to bear in mind that there are no easy solutions,” he continued. “A sea border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain brings its own challenges. Four times as much trade moves across the potential sea border as over the land border with the Republic of Ireland. Two thirds of the trade handled by Northern Irish ports is with Great Britain. And we will need to create new processes and potentially infrastructure on ports in both Northern Ireland and Great Britain to accommodate a sea border.
“Preparations on addressing these issues and the long term border arrangements with the EU must start as soon as a deal is ratified, if that is to be the case."
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