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Put plans in place for a no-deal Brexit, urges Dover MP

Port executive pushes for frictionless post-Brexit borders while local MP warns we should prepare for the worst

A NO-DEAL Brexit would require immediate UK-French co-operation to avoid a logistics nightmare at ports on the English Channel, and plans must be in place to deal with a potential no-deal scenario, attendees at a London International Shipping Week reception at Westminster were told on Monday.

Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke said that while everyone was hoping for a new trade deal, the UK should acknowledge the possibility that there would not be a deal at all, and should prepare for the first day of this potential reality.

“If we want to get the best possible deal we need to be ready and prepared not to do a deal at all. Anyone in any negotiation will tell you that the best way to land the best deal is to walk away from the table if you need to,” he said.

Despite this warning, Mr Elphicke said the UK must be able to handle customs from the first day, if they are in fact reinstated, and HM Revenue & Customs should speed up the design of a new customs declaration system.

The MP also called for closer co-operation with France, proposing a treaty covering peoples and goods. He added that he was deliberating with the French ports of Calais and Dunkirk as well as Antwerp in Belgium to prepare adequately for the future.

One of the UK’s most sensitive Brexit assets given its link to the Continent, Dover has an intimate relationship with Calais and handles £122bn ($160.6bn) of trade each year, accounting for 17% of total UK physical trade in terms of value.

Port of Dover chief executive Tim Waggott said at the Westminster reception that 99% of the trucks the port handled came from the EU. It takes around two minutes to handle each truck from the EU, compared to the 20 minutes it takes for non- EU trucks. A presentation showed that adding just two more minutes to process each EU truck would result in queues stretching for 17 miles.

Dover must absolutely have frictionless borders, Mr Waggott said, without impediments to trade. A streamlined way of achieving this as well as a transitional agreement would mean business as usual for the port.

He proposed a passport for goods, noting that information technology systems already exist that allow for the pre-clearance of goods.

“There is no substitutable capacity anywhere in the land that can take the nature and the type of goods that are transferred through Dover and through the Channel ports,” he said.

Confederation of British Industry head of EU negotiations Nicole Sykes said that while the CBI represented 190,000 businesses and associations, Dover had featured heavily for the organisation since the country voted to leave the EU.

“Since the referendum no company has been named to me as often by other businesses as the port of Dover. It comes up time and time again because it is so important to the companies in our membership,” she said.

In the context of the negotiations, the priority for Ms Sykes is forging a transitional deal. This deal should be delivered quickly, covering not just the customs union but also touching upon the single market, and should come with a clear end date after which the new status quo would kick in.

Such a transitional arrangement would support jobs by creating a stable environment for investments, speed up the negotiations and prevent trade disruption, leading to stable prices of goods.

For more LISW coverage, click here

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