Douglas Carswell

15 NOV 2016

Brexit can boost maritime trade - and cut queues at Dover

Leaving the European customs union, writes Rishi Sunak MP, will allow Britain to create "free ports" – commerce-boosting free-trade zones outside the UK's customs territory. It's not the only way that Brexit will boost Britain's maritime trade.

Free-trade zones are common outside the EU. They allow goods to enter and leave without paying tariffs for the privilege. Turning some of our ports into free-trade zones could boost business considerably. New research, published by the Centre for Policy Studies, suggests that could create tens of thousands of jobs.

But Britain's ports will benefit from leaving the customs union in other ways too. Last year, UKIP in Parliament published a paper on the logistical costs of EU trade barriers. We found that the Common External Tariff, which gives EU imports an artificial advantage over those from the rest of the world, doesn't just impact on our external trade patterns, but congestion on our roads as well.

Here's why. Because EU-standard pallets are slightly too big for international standard containers, our imports from the EU come in lorries rather than in containers that can be transferred to rail. Mostly, these lorries arrive and leave via Dover or the Channel Tunnel. That creates huge pressure on motorways in Kent, resulting in the delays and costs of Operation Stack.

Leaving the customs union will help relieve that pressure. Without protectionist EU tariffs, we will trade proportionally more from the rest of the world, and less from the EU. Because the equivalent imports from non-EU countries are predominantly containerised, they can arrive at a wider variety of ports around the country – and be transported by rail, rather than road.

Britain's ports will also gain from leaving the single market, by avoiding a costly new law. The Port Services Regulation would have forced Britain's ports to open up to internal services competition, wrecking their economies of scale.

I know, from having represented Harwich, how vital maritime trade is not just to the British economy at large, but to local economies and local communities. Quitting the customs union and the single market will allow our ports to flourish. Remainers take note.

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