Failure to secure smooth trade at Port of Dover post-Brexit ‘could hit quality of supermarket food’

PUBLISHED: 09:47 11 September 2017 | UPDATED: 09:47 11 September 2017

A trade body has warned the quality of supermarket food could suffer if frictionless trade isn't agreed at Port of Dover

A trade body has warned the quality of supermarket food could suffer if frictionless trade isn't agreed at Port of Dover

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A maritime trade body has issued the warning as the House of Commons continues to debate the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill this week

The quality of food on supermarket shelves could suffer if the government fails to secure frictionless trade at the Port of Dover after Brexit, the head of the maritime trade body warned.

Maritime UK chairman David Dingle said huge amounts of “just-in-time” goods depended on passing smoothly through ports on either side of the English Channel to reach Britain from the continent.

If lorries were forced to stop for customs checks at ports following Brexit that would cause “massive congestion” and delay the arrival of produce in stores.

But Mr Dingle also said that if the government managed to strike trade deals after Brexit it could result in a “renaissance” for the UK’s shipping industry.

Key figures from the shipping industry will meet ministers at 10 Downing Street for talks on the sector’s future, with transport secretary Chris Grayling promising that Brexit will allow the UK to “rediscover our heritage” as a seafaring nation.

Mr Dingle told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that there were concerns about the impact of leaving the EU and its customs union.

If the flow of goods was impeded by lorries having to stop at ports “we are going to have massive congestion in ports both sides of the channel and, frankly, that could affect some fundamental things we rely on such as the quality of the food that we see on our supermarket shelves”.

But Brexit could also provide a “great opportunity to export the maritime sector”, he added.

“We have much more opportunity if we get things right on the trade-negotiating front post-Brexit,” he said.

The government hopes to make the UK shipping sector a world leader with support for apprenticeships, the creation of a plan to shape and promote the sector up to 2050, and through collaborating with industry partners.

At the start of London International Shipping Week, Mr Grayling said: “Leaving the European Union will allow Britain to seize new opportunities and rediscover our heritage as a truly global, seafaring, trading nation.

“Our maritime industry, far from being a story of the past, is a thriving success story, worth around £15 billion a year to our economy and supporting a quarter of a million jobs.

“This Government is determined to work with the maritime industry to help it grow significantly and make the UK a world leader for shipping business.”

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: “The shipping industry certainly needs to train and employ more seafarers but they should be in secure jobs on good conditions and we should seize the opportunity of EU withdrawal to end the scandal of social dumping and the dodging of minimum wage and other core employment regulations.”

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