Port faces no-deal Brexit cargo logjam

Liverpool Lib Dem leader Richard Kemp warns the Port Health Authority may not have the capacity to undertake a big rise in inspections at the Port of Liverpool in a no-deal Brexit. Tony McDonough reports

Port of Liverpool
Peel Ports insists the Port of Liverpool is ready for all Brexit scenarios


A no-deal Brexit could see the number of annual cargo inspections at the Port of Liverpool rocket from the current 1,900 to 21,000 – a leading politician claims.

Port owner Peel Ports insists it has prepared for all post-Brexit eventualities but Richard Kemp, leader of opposition Lib Dems on Liverpool City Council is warning that Mersey Port Health Authority may not have enough staff to cover all the necessary inspections.

In the last few days Cllr Kemp has attended a meeting of the authority where he questioned chief executive Mercola Douglas. He said the meeting revealed two issues that could become big problems in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

He explained: “Firstly, there is no clarity about regulations concerning imports from Northern Ireland and Ireland with only 10 weeks ago until the UK leaves the EU. This uncertainty is also being felt by immigrations and customs officers.

“Secondly, there will be a huge problem in gearing up from approximately 1,900 statutory cargo inspections a year to the 21,000 that will be required after Brexit. The Port Authority is currently losing staff to Public Health England and other port authorities who will have to undertake inspections for the first time.

Cllr Richard Kemp
Cllr Richard Kemp, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Liverpool City Council


“Even if they could get the staff there is no money to pay for the staff required. This could mean that some ships will be unable to unload their cargos here which might cause a permanent change in which port they choose to use.

“Alternatively, it will mean that large amounts of food stuffs and other products will not be checked before entering the UK food chain. DEFRA are aware of the problems but have refused to commit the extra cash needed.

Britain’s negotiations with the EU over a possible trade deal before January 2021 have run into more difficulties in the past few days. Last week the Government suspended the talks  and Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the country to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. However, on Monday evening there were signs that talks may be set to resume.

Cllr Kemp added: “This farcical situation shows that after being promised an ‘oven ready deal’ and frictionless borders last year, Brexit will cause major problems to trade for hauliers and shippers. Thousands of extra staff will be needed in both public and private sectors. All this will slow down trade which adds to the expense even before the extra cost of staff is considered.”

A spokesperson for Peel Ports told LBN: “We have spent many months rigorously preparing for Brexit to ensure our Ports have the capacity and ability to accommodate different eventualities.

“While there may be uncertainties surrounding the Government’s ‘no deal’ Brexit – and what that means for all ports across the UK – we are as prepared as we can be at Liverpool and across all of our group port locations.”

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