The British Ports Association has welcomed the Government’s Brexit White Paper which outlines the UK’s aims for a future economic relationship with the EU.
Included in the White Paper is the much publicised Facilitated Customs Arrangement which essentially enables the continued frictionless trade between the UK and the EU.
Commenting on the developments the British Ports Association’s Chief Executive, Richard Ballantyne said: “It is clear that the Government has listened to businesses and ports as the revised Facilitated Customs Arrangement proposal will preserve the present free flowing of trade between the UK and the EU. If agreed, this concept would avoid the need for customs and other frontier checks and would ensure that borders remain fluid. It would therefore address the concerns about queues and congestion at ports. We understand there will be challenges for other parts of the logistics industry to overcome but we welcome the Prime Minister’s aspirations to find a trade friendly Brexit deal.”
The main relevance for ports is that the Facilitated Customs Arrangement proposes a free trade agreement that involves the UK becoming a ‘Combined Customs Territory’ with the EU. This will enable trade between the UK and the EU to be free from customs controls and checks.
Ballantyne continued: “Whilst the Association did not take a position on the referendum or any other political episodes, we have been clear from the day of the result that where possible, retaining the benefits that the Customs Union and the Single Market provide in terms of trade facilitation, should be a key priority.”
Free circulation for goods will be possible, the White Paper suggests, by the UK aligning its customs rules with the EU’s and by adopting a Common Rule Book for goods. This will mean the UK and the EU will have a system of mutual recognition of standards. Significantly this will cover agri-food standards exempting the need for a port health inspection regime at the border as well.
Ballantyne added: “We are pleased to see that the new proposals mean no new physical or IT infrastructure requirements for those ports with EU traffic. A lot will depend upon the EU’s reaction of course but it’s important to note that the proposal will also solve the post Brexit border challenges which would arise at European ports with links to the UK.”