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Brexit has arrived – now it’s time for a good trade agreement

31 January 2020
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After the European Parliament voted its consent to the withdrawal agreement on Wednesday, the United Kingdom (UK) officially withdrew from the European Union on 31 January 2020. This will have consequences for trade between Rotterdam and the UK. Depending on the terms agreed for the new UK-EU relationship, free trade will be impeded to a greater or lesser extent by new formalities, tariffs, quality regulations and environmental standards. In practice, there will be no concrete changes until 31 December 2020 at the earliest, since 31 January marks the start of a transition period.

European and UK flags

During this transition period, the EU and the UK will enter into negotiations on their future partnership after 31 December 2020. For the port of Rotterdam, it is crucial that the ensuing treaty arranges the most favourable conditions for the import, export and transit of goods between the two markets. As far as the UK and EU’s respective customs, veterinary and phytosanitary formalities are concerned, this calls for uniform terms wherever possible. Every day, some 3,000 trucks drive to and from the ferry terminals in the port of Rotterdam, and over 40 million tonnes of goods are imported or exported between Rotterdam and British hubs.

Together with Portbase, Dutch Customs, Rijkswaterstaat and the ferry terminals, the port of Rotterdam has done its best to adequately prepare for Brexit. By using Portbase, parties can continue to export and import goods without further complications. It is important in this context that all parties in the chain register with Portbase. Whatever shape the EU-UK partnership will take in the years ahead, it will in any case involve additional formalities and checks. In other words, registering with Portbase is truly a ‘no-regrets investment’.

At the end of 2020, we may once again be confronted with a hard Brexit – similar to earlier deadlines on 29 March, 12 April and 31 October 2019 – if the EU and the UK do not manage to conclude a trade agreement or there is no clarity regarding a possible extension of the transition period. In that case, the port of Rotterdam, Dutch Customs, Rijkswaterstaat, the Municipality of Rotterdam and NVWA will once again take new measures to limit the impact of Brexit as far as possible.