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Monday, January 20, 2020
Sea Breezes Editor, Hamish Ross

Impact of Brexit on UK shipping

Each year in the pages of Sea Breezes, I pass comment on some of the global economic and political challenges facing the shipping industry – the sort of challenges that are very much outside the control of shipping companies and their senior executives.

In 2018, perhaps the most significant development was the emergence of a trade war between two world superpowers: the US and China. As the year ended, there were some positive developments with the promise of negotiators from both countries sitting together in January to identify any common ground for a truce.

With the ongoing potential of global trade being affected by the US-China tensions, closer to home there is much talk around one of the uncertainties that the UK shipping and port industry faces: the impact of the UK’s exit (“Brexit”) from the European Union scheduled for late March.

Concern relates to any impact on trade and volumes of goods being carried between the UK and EU; the potential changes in customs and immigration procedures which might affect supply lines at some of our major ports; changes within the labour and recruitment markets; and whether any international shipping lines may reduce their calls at UK ports if there are any problems in the aftermath of Brexit.

In recent months, I have seen policy positions and pronouncements – generally balanced – from trade organisations such as the Chamber of Shipping and the British Ports Association. This is, without doubt, an issue that is at the forefront of many people’s minds as we look ahead to the rest of 2019.

One hopes that the need to keep international trade running smoothly will feature heavily in the approach adopted by the UK Government and the EU. Ultimately, the UK has experienced major constitutional and trading changes before, including the accession to the then European Economic Community (EEC) at the start of 1973 and the creation of the Single Market after the principles set out in the Single European Act of 1986 came into force in 1992.

I may be naive in thinking this, but I hope that pragmatism rather than dogma will triumph and the need to keep international trade and travel functioning as smoothly as possible will be seen by all key decision makers as critical.

Those in the shipping industry, as is the case in many other sectors, have been waiting for some time now for far more clarity around the likely Brexit deal and the steps that can be taken to get an agreement in place.

Here’s to a positive outcome and a good year overall for the UK shipping industry.

HAMISH ROSS, EDITOR

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