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UK issues emergency port funding ahead of Brexit

UK ports have been invited to bid for a share of a £10m government fund to pay for upgrades that enhance capacity as transport hubs prepare plans for a WTO Brexit

‘As the UK continues to develop as an outward-facing global trading nation ready for a post-Brexit world, the resilience of our trading hubs is more critical than ever before,’ says transport secretary Grant Shapps

THE UK government is providing £30m ($36.5m) in emergency funding for ports infrastructure as part of the country’s preparations for leaving the European Union.

The Department for Transport said the funding will enable UK ports to “continue to thrive after Brexit”.

It includes £10m for so-called Port Infrastructure Resilience and Connectivity — to pay for upgrades to enhance port capacity and maintain trade.

A further £5m will be available to four local authority-led Local Resilience Forums in areas with key freight ports, to fund infrastructure improvements designed to minimise traffic disruption at the border.

In addition, there will be £15m for longer-term projects to boost road and rail links to ports

“As the UK continues to develop as an outward-facing global trading nation ready for a post-Brexit world, the resilience of our trading hubs is more critical than ever before,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement. “This £30m investment supports our ports in their work to boost capacity and efficiency, ensuring they’re ready for Brexit and a successful future.”

The British Ports Association said it welcomed the funding but added that agreeing a withdrawal deal was the best way to avoid potential disruptions at borders.

“The industry is as ready as it can be for a ‘no deal’ although it is clear that this is about mitigating disruption at certain ports, not avoiding it,’’ said BPA chief executive Richard Ballantyne.

He added: “A ‘no deal’ would certainly appear to be more of a possibility now and it is prudent to plan for this potential outcome. However, we remain firmly of the view that a deal that supports frictionless, free-flowing frontiers is the best outcome and as far as we are aware this is still the government’s aim.”

Tim Morris, chief executive of the UK Major Ports Group, said that most of Britain’s large ports had already approached the government with resilience plans.

While his organisation welcomes support for investment in ports in principle, he said there is a need to be realistic about the extent of physical change possible between now and October 31, the day on which Britain is due to leave the EU.

“The Port Infrastructure Resilience and Connectivity fund could make a difference at some locations and circumstances, particularly if it applied to storage and areas adjacent to core port operations,’’ said Mr Morris.

“But it can’t be seen as a silver bullet for the risk of no-deal disruption, and £10m should be seen in the context of the more than £600m UK port operators invest each year.”

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