Chamber of Shipping chief voices concerns over Brexit 'no deal'
The head of the UK's shipping industry trade body says the Government finally understands the "catastrophic" impact a no-deal Brexit scenario could have on trade, but claims EU authorities are failing to prepare for that outcome.
UK Chamber of Shipping chief executive Guy Platten said the most immediate concern is how a hard Brexit with no transition period would affect the ferrying of freight across the British Channel, with just minute delays resulting in significant back-ups for goods including fresh produce deliveries or car parts for manufacturers.
"The port at Portsmouth has done a little calculation - they reckon if there was just a two-minute delay, whilst checks were made, that would add 15 hours on to the day really, in terms of delays," Mr Platten said.
"If we then put in a hard customs border, then those delays will have quite catastrophic effects on the supply chain at least in the short and medium-term."
The industry body - which represents over 180 shipowners, service companies and industry organisations - has gained the ear of Government in the wake of the Brexit vote and is now holding "regular meetings" with the likes of the Department for Transport and the Department for Exiting the European Union, Mr Platten said.
But while British ministers are now alive to the risks, he claimed EU counterparts have not prepared.
"One of the concerns we have is not so much with the UK Government, who really do get the issue now," he said.
"But we're not sure our European partners are really doing too much in this area. And that's a concern, because with any system we have here, there has got to be a system on the other side of the border otherwise all we'd be doing anyway is shifting that problem."
He said that recognition has been evidenced by Prime Minister Theresa May's references to frictionless trade and the push for a transitional period, as well as the fact that the ferrying of goods warranted its own section in a Government white paper on customs procedures.
"A real concern is what the French authorities and what others are doing, what contingency plans are they making, and we're not seeing so much detail on that."
Others this week said the UK should not be "terrified" of leaving with no deal and trading on World Trade Organisation terms.
The UK Government has floated ideas including the use of a virtual or e-customs border system that would use number plate recognition to allow lorries to cross without physical checks.