Creating Stronger Trade Relationships

Categories: NewsPublished On: March 25, 2021889 words26.9 min read

Brexit has restructured the playing field, creating challenges and the chance to strengthen existing reltionships and create new opportunities

Gavin Simmonds, Policy Director-Commercial
at the UK Chamber of Shipping

With brexit now completed and a new deal in place, 2021 is the start of a distinctly new era for the uk shipping industry. Our aims remain the same as those we adopted following the referendum in 2016. These are safeguarding and protecting employment in the maritime sector so we continue to attract and train the best and brightest to our industry, maintaining the fluidity of trade across the UK’s new Customs border with the EU, and working closely with the maritime sector to create an internationally competitive maritime sector in the UK that will act as a dynamic hub for shipping operations and businesses.

The compounded challenges of COVID-19 and the end of the UK/EU Withdrawal Interim Period have given the Chamber and our members the unique opportunity to work more closely than ever with the UK government, identifying and advocating the best possible outcomes for the maritime sector. We are at the cusp of forming not only a new trade relationship, with the EU, but a new global role for the UK as an independent trading entity.

We need new relationships with new international trading partners while making adjustments to reflect changes to the pre-existing trade relationship with the EU.
In creating a wholly independent and international trade policy the UK needed to create bespoke arrangements contained in the Northern Ireland Protocol, which will ensure trade continues to flow between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, and also across the land border on the island of Ireland.

The development of the new customs and inspection arrangements was an intense piece of work carried out in very close co-operation with our members in the ferry and ports sector and the UK government, which had as its prime objective the maintenance of the fluidity of trade flows across all borders. The UK’s departure from the EU meant we left both the EU Single Market and the Union Customs Code on 1 January 2021. Our main priority was to do our utmost to protect the relationships with our EU trade partners, which are highly integrated and interdependent across the maritime sector.

The Chamber understood that the introduction of new UK and EU border and customs controls would have a negative effect and slow trade flows and introduce administrative burdens, with ultimate cost impacts across most supply chains. We consequently sought to reduce such impacts to an absolute minimum in the short term and aim to create – with the UK government – the most modern and efficient borders in the longer term.

The UK’s Border Operating Manual brings together all the complex procedures and flows that the UK’s borders must facilitate in the short term and is testament to an enormous volume of highly technical work achieved with our members. It also positions us well for the future by preparing our borders to achieve the overarching goals of the 2025 New Borders Strategy, which is our next challenge.
In preparation for the UK’s departure from the EU, the UK Government embarked on an ambitious programme of trade negotiations designed to carry over existing EU arrangements with our most important trading partners into new arrangements with the UK. At the same time, new negotiations were started with our major international trading partners, with the US, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and also the various countries in the
massively ambitious Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. In each of these negotiations, the Chamber worked hard to ensure the opportunities for UK shipping and the UK’s maritime services were fully represented and delivered the high level of market access for our members in both national and international markets.

The UK’s exit from the EU also provided an opportunity to reenergise the UK maritime sector and to deliver a comprehensive and competitive package of measures to improve our national offerings for international investment in the maritime sector.
Furthermore, it has the potential to nurture indigenous maritime businesses and to help
strengthen growth in the UK Ship Register. Our country is perfectly positioned as a hub for global business. We need to ensure we deliver as a world leader in terms of innovative fiscal policy – light touch but effective regulation – and we must be seen at the forefront of the pathways that will transition us to a low carbon economy.

Brexit and the renegotiation of numerous trade agreements has been a challenging process, but it has afforded us the chance to question past assumptions and look to build better trade relationships that embrace technology and capital investments and spread prosperity. Shipowners know that prosperity creates new markets and increases trade flows on existing routes and allows new routes to develop. The UK Chamber of Shipping is committed to helping our members to sustain existing trade relationships and to forge new ones. It is these relationships which will drive the UK’s maritime growth in the future. With UK shipping entering a period of change, the UK Chamber will ensure that we keep our members fully informed and poised to make the most of the opportunities that such dynamic moments provide.

Photo: Andrew Sassoil-Walker

Photo: Marks Ogloblins 2nd Officer – North Sea in winter

Photo: Andrew Sassoil-Walker