Quite Fascinating – The Ports Can Cope With Brexit


Here’s another refutation of a part of Project Fear. The ports will be able to cope with Brexit rather than collapsing into immediate chaos. This should have been obvious all along as we don’t actually do much inspection at ports these days anyway. For all the adults realised long ago that given the volume of trade we simply cannot and therefore will not inspect every container.

Actually, anyone who has ever watched any of the cop shows will know this. A standard plot line is that illegal immigrants, or asylum seekers, or potential sex slaves, get smuggled in in containers. And often enough they get through. But, obviously, if they do get through without being inspected then that means we must not be inspecting every container then, doesn’t it?

Quite, we use intelligence and statistical techniques in order to work out which samples to inspect. And we keep an eye on what turns up on the market and if there’s something we don’t want then we track it back up the supply chain. Yes, this does mean that a single and single only shipment of something has a high chance of getting through. It’s repeat business that tends to get caught. But then the adults all agree that this is worth it in order to gain access to the goods of the world.

To give an example, I shipped scandium oxide – a metal oxide, derived from mining holes in the ground – into the US for a decade. In theory every shipment should have a declaration that this is not derived from animal products (answer, no, a hole in the ground). Only once over the 10 years did I actually have to sign the affidavit to the Ag Inspector declaring that it really was not animal derived. That’s just how the system works.

Thus, if we move 50% of our imports over from EU rules to WTO ones we’re still not going to inspect every box. Simply because we don’t inspect every WTO or non-EU box now. To do so would be stupid.

Warnings of a “logjam” at Britain’s ports as a result of a no-deal Brexit are misleading, a senior representative of the industry has said. It comes after Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, said that ports would face chaos if the UK left the EU without a deal and would take “years” to adapt. But Tim Morris, the chief executive of UK Major Ports Group, the trade body, said: “The UK’s port sector is a resilient, adaptable and highly competitive one, offering customers a range of options. “We will work through the challenges of Brexit as we have done with huge changes throughout the centuries.”

It’s obviously possible that we will be stupid in what we do after Brexit. But then if we let the adults who know what they’re doing get on with their stuff then we’ll not be, will we? Whatever Project Fear tells us.

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Rhoda Klapp
Rhoda Klapp

We just managed to keep the country running while two of our now EU partners were torpedoing ships from bases in a third.

Jonathan Harston
Jonathan Harston

We’ll only have a logjam at ports importing stuff if *we* *chose* to create a logjam on imports. There’ll only be a logjam on exports if the French create a logjam, and we don’t control what the French do.