The UK Major Ports Group Ltd (“UKMPG”), the trade body for ports handling 75% of the UK’s seaborne trade, has called for greater clarity, capacity and capability in preparations for border control processes post Brexit.
Welcoming the recognition of the vital role of trade for the UK in its response to the Government’s Customs Bill White Paper, the UKMPG went on to lay out the practical areas requiring urgent attention to give the UK the best prospects of maintaining a free flow of goods and people on day one of Brexit.
Tim Morris, Chief Executive of the UKMPG commented: “With 75% of UK seaborne trade passing through the facilities that they operate, UKMPG members are crucial for the success of a confident, global trading nation in a post Brexit environment. They are experts in successfully facilitating trade both with the EU and the Rest of the World. All ports require an efficient and effective customs regime and border processes to facilitate the free flow of people and goods. It is now essential that practical work is urgently undertaken to ensure that these processes and systems are in place on day one of Brexit.”
The three core principles that UKMPG members believe should direct preparations to create the necessary Customs and border arrangements for post Brexit trading are:
- Clarity – More detail is required on the options the UK Government has put forward so that adequate practical preparation (e.g. systems, physical land and facilities) can be made in what is already a tight timeframe. The need for such clarity extends beyond customs arrangements to other aspects such as requirements for examining or holding goods at the border for matters of public health and safety;
- Capacity – A fully functioning customs declaration system with the capacity to handle the necessary volume on day one is fundamental. Before day one, scaling capacity to process approvals, such as around Temporary Storage, is also vital. Not having such capacity puts at risk the free-flow of both EU and non-EU trade; and
- Capability – UKMPG members already successfully facilitate large volumes of trade with non-European Union destinations. It is clearly important that there is an intensive effort to build and extend capability more broadly to cope with new and higher volume requirements – for example in the UK’s exporters (notably SMEs) and in the Local Authority port health teams.
Mr Morris continued: “The UK ports industry has long been characterized by both its resilience and adaptability. UKMPG members are confident that they will find a way to operate successfully in the mid to long term in whatever settlement is reached on the relationship between the UK and the EU. Brexit should bring important trade opportunities as well as practical challenges to the UK. It is important that the UK has the right infrastructure, such as inland transport connections, and regulation in place to allow the UK’s major ports to maximise their role in capturing these opportunities.”
The full UKMPG response to the Customs White Paper can be found here.