“We are living at a very interesting time; the world ‘frictionless’ looms large and I do worry about what will happen when rhetoric collides with reality,” he said.
Dover is among ports that have voiced concern about the impact of Brexit and this threat could be compounded by the effects of the redesign of the UK’s customs system, said SNP member MacNeil.
“The government is quite determined to be out of the Single Market and the Customs Union. At least some of us have an awareness of what that means for you in particular,” he said.
Promises had been made about frictionless trade “and politicians should be reminded of that afterwards”, he said. “Frictionless trade is something that we will work hard for as we try to do the best for the UK trade sector.”
However, Shipping Minister John Hayes – well-known for his pro-Brexit position – was upbeat. London continues to be pre-eminent in the maritime world with its financial, insurance, shipbroking, legal and other expertise, he said. “But we must not be complacent about that. It is fine to celebrate all we are but we need to think about what we can and must be.
“Brexit encourages us to be more creative and to think more laterally and more long-term than anything else could possibly have done and this is particularly true to Maritime UK.”
In a post-Brexit world, the UK’s shipping, ports and maritime services will be more important than ever, said Hayes.
Maritime UK chairman David Dingle said: “We know we have a crucial role to play in transforming Britain into an outward facing, thriving hub post-Brexit.”
He warned: “One of the main risks posed by leaving the EU is that there will be unnecessary checks at borders, which will create obstacles. If we have to leave the Single Market and Customs Union, then the deal Britain secures must be as smooth as what we currently have.”