UK spending review must prioritise infrastructure funding to replicate EU mechanisms after Brexit

Ahead of this week’s gathering of Europe’s major port gateways at the European Sea Ports Organisation’s Annual Conference in Italy and terminal operators in Bremen for the Breakbulk expo, the British Ports Association has written to the UK’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss MP, requesting that the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review considers how to replicate the EU’s schemes that provide investment for the transport and infrastructure network. Commenting the British Ports Association’s Chief Executive Richard Ballantyne said:

“We are keen that the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review provides for pro-investment transport strategies similar to the EU’s TEN-T and Connecting Europe Facility programme, and that domestic schemes similar to the Motorways of the Sea programme and the European Maritime Fisheries Fund are created and properly resourced.”

The BPA is also calling for new mechanisms to be created to help UK projects to benefit from European Investment Bank loans which have stimulated infrastructure developments across the country, as well as research and innovation funding to examine new environmentally friendly marine equipment. 

Commenting on the prospects for the funds after Brexit, Ballantyne said:

”The economy and our ports need to be able to compete and continue to facilitate trade and enable valuable coastal activities. It is vital that a legacy of Brexit is not that the UK gives up on infrastructure investment. We need to ensure ports and regional economies are connected with a world class transport network. This would help drive efficiencies in the transport of goods and passengers and would also support coastal communities, businesses and tourism strategies.”

UK freight and ports markets are independent and commercially driven. There are over £1.7bn of UK port infrastructure projects in the pipeline but the logistics sector does need a modern and efficient transport infrastructure network to facilitate trade. Ballantyne added:

“The UK ports industry is a competitive sector. What our ports look for is an efficient planning system and a good national transport network.
Previously the BPA has warned that in the coming years the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility is expected to be used to target the hinterland network connectivity challenges faced by many European ports. It will be important that the UK is not left behind. There has rightly been much attention on the potential impacts of new border controls on some UK-EU routes but other factors such as long-term post-Brexit transport plans and infrastructure investment should not be ignored.”

Last year the UK Department for Transport published the results of its Port Connectivity Study which assessed many of the transport challenges for English ports. It also highlighted that ports are often not factored into national and regional transport decisions as well as wider government strategies. The BPA has been pushing for this to be tackled as ports are vital international gateways and they will have an important role facilitating the UK’s post-Brexit trade strategy. It is essential that they are well connected to national networks and markets.

The 16th ESPO Conference is hosted by the Port of Livorno and takes place on 23 & 24 May. The theme of the Conference is ‘Europe’s ports in a new world’ and all of Europe’s major port gateways will be present or represented. Mr Ballantyne is chairing a panel session examining future challenges such as emissions, digitisation and business growth at the event. 

The BPA is also joinin thousands of exhibitors, delegates and vistors at the Breakbulk Expo in Bremen, this week; 21-23 May. 

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