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UK Freight Transport Association airs members’ Brexit fears

The UK Government wants to retain “open and frictionless cross-border trade” with countries in the EU as far as possible after Brexit, the Minister at the Department for Exiting the European Union David Jones (pictured) assured 150 plus delegates at a special ‘Keep Britain Trading’ conference in London on Wednesday.

Other priorities include a “phased process of implementation for any changes in trading arrangements,” he added, in order to allow companies and customs/border forces in both the UK and EU to adapt to whatever new procedures are negotiated.

The UK also wishes to avoid any return to the “hard customs borders of the past” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, he told the FTA-organised conference.

In all this the government “fully recognises the crucial importance” of the logistics industry to Britain’s trading success, stressed Jones, and to this end has committed to invest £61bn in the country’s transport infrastructure during this five-year Parliament - an increase of more than 50% on the £40bn invested during the last.

British Ports Association chief executive Robert Ballantyne responded to the Minister’s comments later in the day, welcoming the greater emphasis on infrastructure but pointing out that road and rail “connectivity” of ports remained a key issue.

But probably the ports sector’s “number one Brexit related concern” was over facilitation of trade and logistics flows, he said, particularly on ro-ro and ferry routes.

Currently ro-ro freight on shortsea routes to the EU “has no systematic frontier controls and requirements for customs declarations,” Ballantyne pointed out. “Ports are by their nature bottlenecks, so any delays to freight flows at the border can lead to major disruptions and operational challenges,” he said, and these need to be avoided or the economic consequences could be severe.

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