BRITAIN’S ports face being “crucified” by damaging Brussels legislation despite Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Express.co.uk can reveal today.
The hotly contested Port Services Regulation has been described as the death knell for Britain’s shipping industry and was strongly opposed by business leaders.
Its implementation was viewed as such a powder keg issue in the UK that senior bureaucrats put back the announcement on its future until after the June 23 referendum.
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said it will be "for the next administration" to decide whether or not to block the new law.
And today we can reveal the anger of UK representatives at the heart of the negotiations on its contents, who were “walked over” by stubborn bureaucrats who refused to compromise to protect jobs.
The country’s largest port operator, Associated British Ports (ABP), said: “Liberating our ports from this damaging Regulation will be an important test of the success of the UK's Brexit negotiations."
Its intervention comes after Shipping Minister Robert Goodwill warned providers that the UK will still be bound by the terms of the controversial agreement if it opts to remain in the single market post-Brexit.
British port owners fear that the details of the deal, which includes the rolling out of extensive Brussels red tape, will decimate our successful shipping industry, which is the second largest in Europe.
And a source close to the UK's negotiating team has told Express.co.uk how Brussels refused to take British concerns into account, whilst our own Government ministers put up only half-hearted resistance to the plans.
We’ve been completely walked overSource
“As far as being prepared to accommodate the unique structure of the UK ports is concerned there’s been no compromise, we’ve been completely walked over.”
At one point in the talks Brussels’ chief negotiator apparently told the British delegation that they should accept the Regulation or bureaucrats would “come back with something even worse”.
Meanwhile the politician heading up the discussions, Knut Fleckenstein, represents the city of Hamburg whose port recently received a billion euros (£827m) in state aid.
British delegates felt the socialist MEP had a “conflict of interest” and used discussions over the regulation as a “bargaining chip” to secure laxer rules on Government financing for ports in future.
One source said: “The whole policy governing the future of the UK’s ports has become a function of Hamburg’s appetite for subsidy."
The row erupted because Britain’s ports are almost exclusively privately owned, whereas most of Europe’s are giant, state-run operations.
As a result the UK industry has proved nimble and more efficient, but the regulation includes reams of Brussels red tape concerning common standards which will put this status at risk.
It will also allow governments on the continent to pump more and more of their taxpayers’ money into state-owned ports that provide direct competition to our own.
ABP, which handles trade worth around £150billion every year supporting 84,000 jobs, has vigorously opposed the plans.
A spokesman said: ”The UK is a maritime nation. Ports are a critical link connecting British businesses to global markets.
"The proposed EU Port Services Regulation will damage essential investment in the UK ports industry which, unlike ports elsewhere in Europe, is largely privately owned and privately funded.
“That's why the nation's ports have been united in opposing the regulation to protect investment, jobs and growth."
Daniel Mahoney, the Head of Economic Research at the Centre for Policy Studies think tank, has warned that Brussels will "crucify the UK’s ports" if it presses ahead with the plans.
He said: “The UK must now insist that these new regulations do not apply to the UK’s thriving ports industry."
The EU Commission has reached an “informal agreement” with the European Parliament over the Regulation, which also has to be ratified by the 27-member European Council which is minus the UK.
Once it has been passed it will automatically become the law in all member states - including Britain until we officially leave - without being written into member states’ law books.
Express.co.uk contacted the Shipping Minister for comment and was referred to the Department for Transport.
A spokesman said: "The proposed deal on port services has yet to be finalised. The Prime Minister has made it clear that it will be for the next administration to determine the terms of our exit from the European Union.
“We remain a member of the EU with all of the rights and obligations that this entails and there will be no immediate changes."