ESPO asks Brexit negotiators to prioritise impact for ports in the assessment of potential post-Brexit scenarios

European Union, Organisations, Politics and Government, Ports & Terminals, Trade and Commerce — By on March 6, 2018 at 3:51 PM

Eamonn O’Reilly

06 March 2018 – The European Sea Ports Organisation has developed a position paper to submit to the negotiators now that Brexit has entered the second phase.

With this paper, ESPO calls on the Brexit negotiators to prioritise transport and more in particular maritime transport in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations. Given the fact that much of the trade in goods between the EU-27 and the UK passes through ports, it is of paramount importance to consider the impact of potential post-Brexit scenarios on the ports, the transport and logistics chain in any decision making process.

“Europe’s ports need certainty and time to adapt to the new realities post-BREXIT if they are to continue to perform their vital function as nodes in intra-European supply chains.  If the current short-sea fluidity is compromised, there will be no winners.”  says ESPO Chairman, Eamonn O’Reilly.

More in particular European ports call upon the Brexit negotiators to take the following considerations into account:

  • Ensuring short-sea fluidity for roll-on/roll-off and short sea services between the UK and EU-27 should be a central objective. Currently, the Customs Union and Single Market allow roll-on/roll-off vehicle traffic to call at a port without prior reservation. This avoids congestion on the access roads to the ports and enables businesses to rely upon just-in-time logistics. The reintroduction of border controls at the EU-UK borders risks to turn ports into bottlenecks and disrupt long established supply chains. ESPO therefore calls upon the Brexit negotiators to seriously consider the financial, operational and spatial consequences of the reintroduction of border controlsin ports and its wide implications for the logistic industries and communities around port terminals in the decision making on the future EU-UK relationship.
  • In order to effectively prepare for the reintroduction of border controls, border authorities of the UK and EU-27 Member States should already be able to discuss and coordinate on the operational level. Such talks should however only aim at preparing the ground for the different possible Brexit scenarios and should not lead to bilateral deals.
  • On the transition period, ESPO asks to have as soon as possible clarity on the duration and modalities of the transition period and to ensure sufficient time to allow ports and the broader logistics chain to prepare for the consequences of the UK leaving the European Union.
  • If border controls are being reintroduced, some ports will have to reorganise the layout of their terminals, as well as to make investments in the development of innovative IT solutions and additional workforce to cope with the increase of administrative burden. ESPO therefore urges the Commission to consider the costs of making ports that depend on EU-UK trade “Brexitproof”, in the preparations of the new Multi-annual Financial Framework.
  • Port stakeholders should work together in order to ensure that goods can continue to flow smoothly through ports.
  • Some shippers and operators are exclusively trading with EU Member States. For them, Brexit will have important consequences since they do not have the administrative and logistic services nor the experience to export to countries outside the Customs Union.  Companies, especially those operating exclusively at EU level, should be informed and advised at an early stage to enable them to prepare for the likely increase in customs declarations and procedures to comply with border control requirements.
  • Last but not least, for European ports, an appropriate EU-UK trade agreement, which preserves trade and economic growth, is an important condition of a successful Brexit. In the absence of such a trade agreement, import tariffs on both sides will make goods traded between the UK and EU-27 more expensive. This could disturb existing trade routes and have a negative impact on the job creation and industry located within ports as well as on the overall traffic of ports that rely on EU-UK trade.
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