Cargo heads for Japan without any certainty it will be allowed in

PUBLISHED: 08:45 18 February 2019 | UPDATED: 08:52 18 February 2019

The Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk. Photograph: Chris Radburn/PA.

The Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk. Photograph: Chris Radburn/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

A cargo ship has left Felixstowe for Japan with no guarantee that it will be allowed to unload its cargo when it arrives on March 30th.

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The ship, the Thalassa Mana, has left Felixstowe and is scheduled to arrive in Osaka, Japan, on March 30th, one day after our currently scheduled date of departure from the EU. It does not know the trading conditions that will face it upon arrival or even whether it will be allowed to unload its cargo.

The EU has recently negotiated a trade deal with Japan, but it is very much unclear whether the UK will be able to replicate the benefits of this agreement if it leaves the EU. Liam Fox and the Department for International Trade have so far managed to agree the roll-over of just four of around 40 existing trade deals we currently benefit from as EU members, not including the deal with Japan. It has been reported that it is now too late for the Japanese Parliament to have time to approve any roll-over in time for the current scheduled Brexit date of March 29th.

Industry insiders have already expressed serious concern about the situation.

Hannah Essex, a co-executive director of policy at the British Chamber of Commerce, said it was unclear what would happen: “Traders trying to fulfil orders now are still in the dark about what will happen to their goods when they arrive at destinations around the world in a matter of weeks.”

Seamus Nevin, the chief economist at the EEF manufacturers’ group, said: “These problems don’t just start on 29 March. It takes several weeks for container ships to travel from the UK to East Asia, Oceania, or South America. Very soon, sea-freight will be leaving the UK with no idea of the trade rules that will be in place when the goods arrive.”

Rachel Reeves MP, a leading supporter of People’s Vote, said: “Thanks to the utter chaos created by Brexit, cargo ships full of goods are now sailing into an uncertain future. This ship sailing today is an example of the damaging uncertainty facing businesses and exporters – it is setting sail with no idea what trading conditions it will face upon arrival.

“This is a perfect metaphor for the uncertain post-Brexit future the government is leading us towards – their proposed deal would guarantee nothing and would leave all the major issues unresolved, meaning the Brexit process would continue to drag on for years to come. This offers neither clarity nor closure, it is a Blindfold Brexit and the country is being made to walk the plank.

“Parliament is in gridlock with no secure majority for any form of Brexit, the clock is ticking down towards a disastrous no deal departure, and businesses are deeply worried about an unknown future. It’s time to conclude that the ship is sailing on Brexit: it is time to give the public the final say through a People’s Vote.”

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