Commenting on political declaration on the future relationship between the UK and the EU, Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive of the British Ports Association said:
“The British Ports Association was supportive of the aspirations of the Government’s “Chequers” proposals over the summer as it committed to an agreement that ensured frictionless trade. This was to be achieved by agreeing a common rulebook with the EU, meaning there would be little or no need for new cumbersome regulatory checks at ports – particularly at Roll-on Roll-off ports such as Dover, Holyhead, Immingham and Portsmouth, where vehicles and trailers flows freely through with minimal or no stoppages.
“The proposals in this agreement appear to offer no guarantees that some new borders checks could be introduced on UK-EU trade flows. Whilst there is some encouraging language around minimising trade barriers and agreeing common principles, it falls short of committing frictionless trade and could therefore cause potential disruption for some parts of the ports industry.”
Paragraph 24 (see below) of the declaration states that the UK and the EU “should treat one another as single entities as regards SPS [sanitary and phytosanitary] measures”. This means that the UK and EU would need to undertake physical checks and inspections on products of plant and animal origin at the border. These checks are time consuming and bureaucratic and could cause significant disruption at roll-on roll-off ferry ports.
24. While preserving regulatory autonomy, the Parties will put in place provisions to promote regulatory approaches that are transparent, efficient, promote avoidance of unnecessary barriers to trade in goods and are compatible to the extent possible. Disciplines on technical barriers to trade (TBT) and sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) should build on and go beyond the respective WTO agreements. Specifically, the TBT disciplines should set out common principles in the fields of standardisation, technical regulations, conformity assessment, accreditation, market surveillance, metrology and labelling. The Parties should treat one another as single entities as regards SPS measures, including for certification purposes, and recognise regionalisation on the basis of appropriate epidemiological information provided by the exporting party. The Parties will also explore the possibility of cooperation of United Kingdom authorities with Union agencies such as the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).