The PM’s Florence speech: what’s in it for shipping?

Matthew Wright, who recently joined the UK Chamber as Brexit policy advisor, says the speech made the right noises but the Government must follow through

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Last Friday, the Prime Minister delivered a much anticipated speech in Florence on the UK’s departure from the EU. The speech focused upon the possibility of a transition period, commencing in March 2019. 

During this period, the UK would continue to abide by existing arrangements, including the terms of market access, and would contribute financially to the EU budget. The intention is to stagger the effects of the UK’s withdrawal from the bloc. 

The continued acceptance of EU rules – including those of the Customs Union – during this transition period is a sensible approach that the UK Chamber welcomes. Shipping is highly integrated with EU regulations and, because a new regulatory framework is unlikely to be established in the 18 months that remain before Brexit, maintaining the status quo in the meantime is essential. 

One of shipping’s earliest demands was for post-Brexit arrangements that allow for the continued free movement of ro/ro traffic. A transitional period was first mooted in the context of new Customs arrangements.  Now that May has suggested that such a period will be effected, we can concentrate on which of the two proposed models will work best for our short-sea routes and trade flows. Will it be a ‘new customs partnership’ or a ‘highly streamlined arrangement’?

May said the transitional period should last as long as it would take to introduce the new processes required after Brexit. Despite this seemingly open-ended expectation, the Prime Minister stated it would be “strictly time-limited”. We welcome the transition in that it will provide more time to establish new UK-EU trade procedures, but it must not lead to further inactivity in determining the exact terms of future customs arrangements or of trade agreements. As we have said, it is difficult to plan if you don’t know where you are going.

The UK Chamber welcomes much of the content in the Prime Minister’s speech, especially comments providing reassurance to EU Citizens currently residing in UK. May’s words should help allay the concerns of seafarers and set the technical discussion of the position of EU seafarers off to a better start. Securing the ability of UK companies to employ EU nationals with EU certificates has been at the forefront of the UK Chamber’s concerns.

It will be interesting to see this week just by how much the PM’s intervention will re-set the formal negotiations when they start again this Tuesday. 

For more information contact:

Matthew Wright

Policy Advisor (Brexit)

020 7417 2834

mwright@ukchamberofshipping.com