Breaking News

Like 'banging your head against a brick wall': Maritime sector on dealing with Government on Brexit

The chairman of Maritime UK calls on ministers to put "pragmatism over politics" in preparing Britain for leaving the EU.

operation-stack news18pron
Brexit could see permanent 20-mile-long motorway queues in Kent, David Dingle warned

By Greg Heffer, Political Reporter

The top figure in Britain's £40bn maritime sector has said liaising with the Government over Brexit is like "banging your head against a brick wall".

David Dingle, the chairman of industry body Maritime UK, urged ministers to put "pragmatism over politics" as he warned of a possible "meltdown" at Britain's ports on the day the country leaves the EU.

Speaking to reporters in central London this week, Mr Dingle called for an open-ended Brexit transition period and expressed pessimism that technology or beefed-up infrastructure could fill the absence of a new customs agreement with the EU.

He insisted his industry is "shouting loudly" about their concerns, but suggested there has been little response from ministers.

"You do feel as if you are banging your head against a brick wall," he said.

"Until this Government can find a resolution we're going to have to go on banging our heads against a brick wall."

Mr Dingle added: "We are lost in politics and we want pragmatism over politics."

dover-port news18pro
A technological solution to customs checks is 'unrealistic', Mr Dingle claimed

The UK's maritime sector comprises Britain's shipping industry and ports, as well as services such as ship financing and manufacture, including the building of superyachts.

It is estimated to support close to one million jobs and contribute around £40bn to Britain's GDP.

Mr Dingle was not gloomy about the long-term prospects for the "strategically vital" maritime industry after Brexit, if the Government fulfils its stated ambition for the UK to become a "great trading nation" outside of the EU.

But he questioned if Britain's infrastructure, such as already clogged-up road and rail links to ports, would be "up to the task" of an increased export market - through new post-Brexit trade deals - without efforts to tackle existing congestion.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly insisted the UK will leave the EU's customs union once outside the bloc, leaving Mr Dingle to warn about the short-term consequences of Brexit without another resolution for customs checks by March 2019.

He explained how even a doubling of the time it takes lorries to get through the port of Dover, from two minutes to four minutes, could see permanent 20-mile-long motorway queues in Kent.

Mr Dingle suggested the Government is "hoping for a technology solution" to customs checks by next year, but said that is "unrealistic".

david-dingle-david-dingle news18pro
Mr Dingle wants an open-ended Brexit transition period

He added: "It seems equally improbable, in the current climate, that there will be a political solution, that there will be an output of a 'deep and special relationship', which will mean that those lorries can continue to flow in an unimpeded fashion."

Mr Dingle accused the Government of adopting a "[have] cake and eat it" approach to a transition period, suggesting ministers want an interim deal - which could see the status quo maintained in UK-EU relations - but also "want to act as if we are completely out of the EU" during that time.

He said: "This gets mired in politics. Everyone believes in principle that a transition period is exactly what is necessary.

"What we hear coming from Brussels is that - despite the official statement that the transition will last until December 2020 - actually in Brussels, they will be pragmatic.

"But, here, it is all getting dragged down by politics."

Mr Dingle claimed a "transition needs to be as long as it takes to transition" to a future UK-EU relationship, adding: "We believe that it is of such critical importance that some of more political considerations may need to give way to it."

Asked whether the proposed 18-month transition period until December 2020 would be long enough to find a technological or infrastructure solution to post-Brexit customs checks, Mr Dingle replied: "I honestly don't know. For infrastructure, probably not."

The Department for Exiting the EU had not responded to a request for comment by the time of publication.



No comments