Yesterday’s election in the UK has returned a Conservative government led by Boris Johnson with a high majority of almost 80 seats which will allow it almost complete freedom to carry out its manifesto promises. The biggest losers on the night were the Labour party which had its poorest performance for almost a century. The Liberal Democrats – which campaigned on a Stop Brexit message – lost seats and its leader who was beaten into second place.
The result, on a regional and constituency basis, was almost a rerun of the 2016 referendum on leaving the EU. After a three and a half year delay, it is now almost certain that by the end of January 2020 the UK will no longer be a member of the EU and will be involved in negotiations over the future trading relationship between it and the organisation of 27 countries.
It is too early to say what the result will mean for the shipping industry beyond highlighting that the UK is now no longer obliged to take note of EU directives and will no longer have a role in formulating EU laws and regulations. That is not to say that there will be any immediate changes in policies of the UK as regards shipping regulation because the government will want to examine its options before deciding a future course.
One of the areas that could affect shipping – but in reality just a few shipping lines are involved - is in freight movements between the UK mainland and Northern Ireland. Some controls will be needed on goods moving from the mainland to Northern Ireland intended for eventual destinations in the Irish Republic but there are many within the government who believe that this need not actually involve much in the way of new procedures. Goods moving in the opposite direction will likely not be subject to any controls whatsoever.
What the EU might decide concerning shipping between the UK and the wider EU is a different matter. It may wish to take a hard line to send a message to other member nations but the departure of the UK may well spark a desire for other countries to also explore their own future within or outside of the EU.
The UK government is unlikely to downgrade the country’s environmental commitment in the short term (in fact Johnson has already restated his commitment to a carbon neutral UK by 2050) but it will no longer have to fall in line with a majority of EU countries on many matters. It could for example establish the UK as a transhipment hub for shipping taking many lines out of the line of any future EU Emission Trading Scheme, leaving that for feeder services moving goods on to final destinations. A shipping friendly UK could prove an attractive home for current EU-based ship operators concerned over the EU’s attitude to shipping in matters such as recycling why aren’t the class-approved Indian recycling yards on the EU’s approved list?
ShipInsight will be closely following any new shipping or trade related initiatives and regulations that come from the new government and give its analysis of their likely effect.