News Content Hub – Coronavirus: keeping UK ports open 'a priority'

Richard Ballantyne (BPA): "Half of the UK's food is imported" 19 Mar 2020by Rebecca Moore British Ports Association (BPA) says keeping the UK's global gateways open for trade should be a priority

Responding to the publication of the government's policy paper on its new Emergency Bill, BPA chief executive Richard Ballantyne said "UK ports facilitate 95% of our trade and will be instrumental in ensuring the country is fed and resourced in the coming weeks. "Half of the UK's food is imported and it will be critical to keep our ports open so that shops, public services and businesses are supplied with what the country needs. The industry is generally very supportive of the government's measures to bring the pandemic under control and is working hard to keep goods moving.

We would also expect that proposed new powers to potentially close individual ports will only be used in the most extreme circumstances. "These are unprecedented times and we are working closely with the UK Government and devolved administrations. Our ports are currently open and facilitating imports of food, supplies and resources.

It will be important that Government staff at the front line look to support this effort as best they can." He said BPA has been speaking with its counterparts in Italy where the ports have remained open and "we are learning from their experiences to keep our gateways operational." The new Bill will enable the Home Secretary to request that port and airport operators temporarily close and suspend operations if Border Force staff shortages result in a real and significant threat to the UK's border security.

This is to ensure the UK can maintain adequate border security throughout the pandemic and protect the public from the threat of criminality or importation of prohibited items that could result from an inadequately controlled border. BPA said in a statement "This might only be used in extremis, where necessary and proportionate, and any direction will be kept to the minimum period necessary to maintain the security of the UK border. We trust that these powers would only be enacted suddenly without consideration of the implications.

We would expect a sunset clause on these powers so that they expire once the pandemic is brought under control."

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