The EU working party responsible for advising the EU Brexit negotiators paid a visit to the port of Antwerp on Monday 28 May. The working party is made up of representatives of the 27 EU countries, the European Commission and the European Council.
During their visit to the Border Inspection Post and the Antwerp Gateway Terminal the European diplomats learned about the various procedures involved in importing and exporting goods in and out of the European Union
. The aim of the visit was to find out the practical implications of the various Brexit scenarios.
Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO van het Havenbedrijf Antwerpen said: "The UK is an extremely important market for the port of Antwerp, generating an annual freight volume of more than 14 tonnes. Unfortunately there was a drop of 8% in our trade with the UK last year, probably due to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. That's why we were so keen today to demonstrate how the port works in practice and what the impact of Brexit could be."
Jacques added: "For us the most desirable post-Brexit situation would be one that stays the closest to the current trading conditions. Any kind of barrier to free trade in goods, whether tariff or non-tariff-based, would in our opinion have a negative impact on trading relations between our port and the UK market.”
At the Border Inspection Post the "EU Working Party on art. 50" was welcomed by Kristian Vanderwaren, Administrator-General of Customs, and by Jean-François Heymans, Deputy Director-General of the Federal Agency for Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC).
The group was then given a presentation of the various checks and inspections carried out on goods entering or leaving the EU from or to a non-EU country, giving a clear picture of the impact that the various Brexit scenarios would have. The group then moved on to the Antwerp Gateway Terminal where An Moons, Risk & Legal Director, and Ron Van Gastel, Senior Commercial Manager, explained the operation of the terminal.
During the visit both the Customs and the FASFC presented their assessment of the practical consequences that Brexit would have. They underlined that Brexit in whatever form would have an impact on their inspection services and that this would bring additional costs for all countries with significant trading operations to and from the UK.