The port of Dover says it is expecting a smooth Brexit, claiming no major headaches are expected at British ports when Brexit happens on January 31. However, industry leaders warn much still needs to be sorted out before the end of the year. Meanwhile, the trend line on the port throughput graph is heading sharply south, and Dover has announced redundancies.
The port of Dover is likely to roll out smoothly on the UK waterfront on the last day of this month, although throughput volumes are on a continuing downward trajectory following a stockpiling spike in the last quarter of 2018, according to ports industry sources.
While Britain is formally departing from the European Union on January 31, existing arrangements on customs, excise and value added tax rules and regulations remain in place while the details are hammered out. That should make life easier for port operators in the next few weeks.
The UK government is aiming to complete relevant negotiations by the end of the year. But from a port user perspective, no noticeable changes are anticipated in the short term.
The Withdrawal Agreement Bill is due to undergo its second reading in the House of Lords today. Assuming ratification, as is widely expected, the UK will enter into a transitional period on February 1, with the UK staying within most EU institutions such as the single market and the customs union until 31 December.
After that, UK and EU customs arrangements will presumably diverge, meaning that new border procedures will need to be introduced from 2021. The status at that time of British trade with Ireland — both the republic and those parts that remain within the UK — is one of the major points that still needs to be agreed.