The British Ports Association (BPA) said that more focus is needed on the likely impacts – such as delays at ports – of the UK’s departure from the European Union.
However, the BPA welcomed the government’s priorities to ensure a smooth transition in the immediate post-Brexit period.
The view was presented after the country’s government published a paper entitled “Future customs arrangements: a future partnership paper” discussing options for new customs arrangements between the UK and the EU.
Commenting on the publication, Richard Ballantyne, the British Ports Association’s Chief Executive, welcomed the focus on continuity but suggested that further reassurances were needed on future customs arrangements at the border.
“Preserving the beneficial arrangements of Customs Union membership, such as minimal checks at the border, are extremely important to a number of ports, particularly the Roll-on Roll-off/ferry port gateways,” Ballantyne said.
“Collectively such ports facilitate tens of thousands of HGV journeys a day between the UK and the EU, representing GBP billions of trade each year and it is vital to the UK economy that this trade continues uninterrupted,” Ballantyne added.
As explained by the BPA, it is unclear how the potential new requirements covering border checks and other issues will be resolved when the UK leaves the EU.
“In our view, the UK Government has given much attention on achieving a tariff free trade agreement with the EU without focusing on the potential bureaucratic delays there could be at the border,” the BPA concluded.
The government believes that the UK could either seek a “highly streamlined” customs arrangement with the EU or enter into a new customs partnership with the EU. It also suggests that a transitional period should follow Brexit before a final deal is struck that would follow existing procedures as closely as possible.
The report also states that the UK and EU Member States would benefit from time to fully implement the new customs arrangements and would work in “close association”.
Separately, the UK Chamber of Shipping said the report is a “significant step forward in providing reassurance to British and European businesses, and the shipowners that facilitate their trade.”
“We are pleased to see more detail on the specific measures the UK Government wishes to develop, and we particularly welcome plans for a temporary customs union that are broadly in line with what industry has called for,” Guy Platten, CEO of UK Chamber of Shipping, said.
“We agree that there can be a greater role for technology in the future, but given their core proposal will be beholden to European agreement we urgently need them to develop a plan to make use of powers that already reside with the UK Government, namely investment in road infrastructure around major ports and the recruitment of significant numbers of people to undertake any additional customs checks that may in the future be required,” Platten pointed out.