David Davis at Teesport, the British Ports Association’s Chief Executive, Richard Ballantyne suggested that cross border trade facilitation was being neglected in the negotiations.
“The confirmation of the Government’s priorities for Brexit transitional arrangements provides European focused ports and logistics operators some clarity that in the short term it will be business as usual at the border. Much depends upon the negotiations and agreements of course but longer term, post the transitional period, we are unsure what the arrangements might be when leaving the European Union
," Richard said.
He added: "It is apparent that a far greater focus is being put on the UK’s future global new trade arrangements, rather than on the vitally important cross border operational provisions for the almost 50% of our trade that is with our European neighbours.”
The Free Ports concept has been much debated recently. This would probably not in itself solve some of the immediate cross border challenges arising from Brexit but there are some ports such as Milford Haven, Teesport and others, where there could be interest.
Alongside this, the British Ports Association has written to the UK Chancellor this week, outlining its vision for UK ports to be granted a special status which would enable them to facilitate and accommodate development, enterprise and regional growth. Highlighting the significance of port activities in coastal regions, Ballantyne commented:
“Our vision is for a new pro-growth and trade initiative where UK ports are designated as ‘Port Development and Enterprise Zones’, encouraging regional and coastal development and boosting trade. Within such zones, trade and industrial activity could be incentivised by favourable business, tax and planning conditions. This is wider than wider than Free Ports itself and could cover ports, tenants and the clusters of businesses that undertake important activities around port locations and provide significant levels of employment in often deprived regions.
Whilst Free Port status might not be suitable for all ports and it will certainly not provide a Brexit solution for gateway ports, the Government needs to examine how this might work in the future. It also remains unclear if the terms of any Brexit departure deal would even allow free ports as they may cause competition and state aide challenges.”