Maritime sector discuss new trade and customs papers with parliamentary Brexit select committee chair, Hilary Benn

Maritime UK members met with Hilary Benn MP, chair of the parliamentary Exiting the European Union Committee on Wednesday. The meeting followed government’s publication of its papers on customs and trade on Monday.

The maritime sector is responsible for enabling 95% of the UK’s global trade, supports just under 1 million jobs and contributes around £40bn to UK GDP.

Members representing the British Ports Association, UK Chamber of Shipping, Baltic Exchange and Solent LEP joined David Dingle CBE, Chairman of Maritime UK.

David Dingle said:

“Today’s discussions with Hilary Benn were useful – both in terms of understanding Parliament’s role in the Brexit process, and in ensuring his awareness of the maritime sector’s priorities.

On the two new papers, he said,

“Whilst it’s welcome and prudent that the government is actively preparing for a no-deal scenario, we want to see maximum effort being dedicated to achieving a successful deal.

“A successful deal preserves as many of the current benefits of the customs union as possible.

“The fact that no-deal is now being spoken about so readily is a reflection of the slow progress being made in the negotiations. We recognise that whether there is a deal or not will ultimately depend upon a political decision taken by both sides. Failure to secure a deal will not only see delays and disruption at ports like Dover, Holyhead and Portsmouth, but also in the EU at ports like Zeebrugge, Calais and Dublin.

“Given this risk it may be equally prudent to explore an extension to the Article 50 deadline to allow for these complex negotiations to succeed. We urge both sides to be pragmatic and to make real progress soon.”

Of the two options outlined in the 'Future Customs Arrangement' paper of 15th August, the maritime sector favours a new and unique Customs agreement between the UK and EU. 

David Dingle added, "We recognise that a new and unique agreement requires political will from both sides, but it is wholly in the interests of both the UK and EU to deliver that."