London businesses have called on the government to undertake necessary infrastructure enhancement now to ensure English ports can fully support the economy post-Brexit.
The call followed a Dover – Calais fact-finding trip where an London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) delegation was briefed onsite about on port operations.
LCCI Policy Director, Sean McKee said: “With Brexit approaching we were keen to glean an understanding of port operations and learn of any potential inhibitors to future success.
“The operations we witnessed at both ports were smooth. Around 30 per cent of the UK’s trade goods pass through Dover. However, the road infrastructure leading to the port needs upgrading. Congestion can be an issue at peak times of the year. Port resilience has to be key ministerial consideration.
“We were impressed by the ambitious expansion plans of Calais – based on expected traffic growth to and from Dover.
However, officials there were quite concerned at the prospect of any Brexit cliff-edge – the lack of any deal on freight transit procedures that could impede their operations”.
Recent polling by ComRes for LCCI found 70 per cent of businesses believed minimising customs procedures on trade with the EU was important, while 66 per cent found it important to minimise restrictions on the quantity of goods that can be traded with the EU.
McKee added: “As Brexit talks continue, government needs to be actively working with transport and freight operators to identify potential future obstacles to continued business success.
“Left unaddressed, local infrastructure limitations could create major congestion delays, while any new complex customs procedures could increase costs.
Both these matters could potentially impact on the ability for UK businesses to continue to import and export effectively.
”LCCI is calling on government to help get UK ports ‘Brexit ready’ with measures that should include:
- Exploring siting pre-clearance customs and immigration controls away from ports of entry
- Developing new customs procedures in liaison with business, freight and transport interests.
McKee said: “Failing to do so, now, opens up the possibility of future shocks to the national economy.”
Sean McKee is the Director of Policy at LCCI