The boss of Foyle Port has described the Lisahally trade hub as a ‘classic Brexit case study’ and acknowledged the harbour is perhaps uniquely exposed to the trade doldrums some fear could result from the United Kingdom’s imminent departure from the European Union.
Brian McGrath, Foyle Port Chief Executive, warned that political leadership is urgently required in order to pour oil on the choppy waters of Brexit uncertainty, which “erodes business confidence and deters investment”.
Ironically, the port skipper issued the warning as the local harbour announced a record operating profit of £2.2million from a turnover of £8.6 million for 2016/2017.
In the port’s Annual Report for 2016/17, Mr. McGrath notes that the accounts are being presented just as “the Brexit watershed moves within 18 months of reality”.
“We are fast approaching the point when political decisions impact at an operational level and the consequences are felt by our customers and the wider community of port stakeholders,” he states.
Mr. McGrath complains that despite months of stop-start negotiations between the European Commission and London the picture of what Brexit will look like for cross-border trade facilitators like Foyle Port in 2019 is no clearer.
“At the time of writing there is still no clarity on future arrangements in place of the customs union, single market and common travel area,” he states.
Equally, the continuing political impasses at Stormont is not helping.
“Speculation on transition periods and general goodwill towards a practical solution to the Northern Ireland border conundrum are yet to manifest into firm agreement, and the lack of a sitting Northern Ireland assembly weakens a collective voice at a time when it is needed most,” states Mr. McGrath.
The port boss describes the local harbour as a “classic Brexit case study” and outlines just how much of its business traverses what will soon by an EU/UK border.
“We are a UK Trust Port with 50 per cent of trade imported from the EU by sea and 40 per cent of our trade re-exported to the Republic of Ireland by road.
“A vital third of the port’s trade is imported from the rest of the world and the port also has an important role as a domestic gateway with 20 per cent of trade handled from GB,” he states.
Elsewhere, on Tuesday, 561 members of the European Parliament backed a resolution, which concluded that British Prime Minister Theresa May’s pledge that there would be no physical infrastructure at the border, presumed that the “UK stays in the internal market and customs union or that Northern Ireland stays in some form in the internal market and customs union”.