UK referendum countdown in single figures

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

15 June 2016


There are now less than 10 days to go before the UK votes in the in or out EU referendum. While opinion polls can be wrong, it would seem that the upper hand has now passed to the leave side which has a seven point lead according to ‘official’ polls and between 19 and 30 point leads in less scientific online polls. If the polls prove correct and the vote is to leave the EU there will be some significant implications for shipping. In the short term, the UK government will have its work cut out negotiating new trade deals and finalising the divorce settlement with the EU. Over recent years there has not been a huge amount of consensus among EU states or national shipowners’ associations when it comes to regulations affecting shipping and as has been demonstrated most recently in connection with demolition there are also disagreements between shipowners and the EU regulators as well. In general the EU has not been the most ardent supporter of EU plans for shipping and along with Finland is the only major North European nation not to have ratified the IMO ballast convention. Outside of the EU it is difficult to know what direction the UK’s support for international regulation of shipping will go. However, if the UK decides to opt out of the EU single market, shipping may have to cope with a new customs and port regime that could alter transhipment and hub port strategies. A departure from the EU by the UK may also encourage other nations to follow suit as recent surveys show high levels of dissatisfaction with the EU in several nations; current EU president Donald Tusk from Poland has gone on record as saying Brexit will ‘signal the end of western political civilisation’ suggesting that the EU will revert more to being a trading bloc rather than a quasi-federal state; from a shipping point of view that could mean a gradual dropping of projects such as e-navigation, MVR of emissions and the like. Nothing is certain of course, not even the result of the vote itself at this point in time but it is another event that will help make 2016 one of the most unpredictable years in recent shipping history.