Manston and Ramsgate Port's role in 'no deal' planning

I hope all readers had an enjoyable and restful Christmas season; the festive season now seems, for many, to be a full two week holiday period, but spare a thought for all those working across the emergency services, the NHS and in retail for whom there is little time off. January is enjoyed by some as a fresh beginning, and a further stepping stone to count out the Winter. It has always been my least favoured month: often the coldest, the nights still long and when I was working fully as an accountant in practice, the busiest month as laggardly clients finally bring in their records to meet the 31st January tax return deadline. If you’re one of those who have to submit a tax return – time is ticking by!

We start 2019 with Brexit still dominating the news and Thanet now receiving national media attention at the forefront of no-deal Brexit planning. We have the ‘dress rehearsal’ of lorry movements from Manston to Dover in case Operation Stack/Brock comes in to play if French customs play up after 29th March. All seems a little far-fetched to me as the Europe wide logistics industry would grind to a halt with losses experienced across much of the EU if German, Polish and Romanian lorries become stuck in the UK because of intransigent behaviour in Calais. This leads on conveniently to further no-deal planning with other cross-channel and cross North Sea routes being planned for. Ports in Belgium and Holland would welcome the opportunity to expand their operations at the expense of the all-powerful Calais access point for cross-border trade. The significance here is of course Ramsgate and Seaborne Freight. Much has been guessed at, speculated at and sneered at over the past weeks when the story emerged. I have not had sight of the detail of the contract the Department for Transport have negotiated with Seaborne, but do understand that it is a wholly ‘contingent’ contract. Simply, if there is no service there will be no money. In the meantime our port will be upgraded and the sea approaches, always subject to extreme silting will be dredged at somebody else’s expense. This has to be good news.

Whilst I have always had my doubts as to the long term viability, or desirability for Ramsgate Port to re-open to freight only ferry traffic when something new and dynamic could emerge from the long redundant port site, I’m comfortable with where we are and I wish Seaborne the best of luck in finding ships, crew and new business.

We hear much, often with a negative overtone, when ‘no-deal Brexit’ is discussed. Leaving cleanly and trading on WTO terms would have short-term lumps and bumps, but this type of arrangement is merely an international normality. It is a ‘deal’ and a well-recognised one. We’d be saving the £39Bn offered up as a divorce settlement, protecting the Union and put ourselves in the driving seat to conclude new international trade deals. A lively few days ahead in Parliament as the Withdrawal Agreement returns to the House of Commons for debate.