Tele column – 22nd December 2017

In years gone by various versions of the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England have fought battles at sea to protect shipping and therefore trade routes. These days there are trade agreements and treaties in place that are mutually agreeable to the concerned countries but as an archipelago of islands, the surrounding oceans, seas and channels are of paramount importance to us.  

Over the years we have traded with Western and Southern Europe as a matter of course and as foreign holidays became more affordable we have become used to holidaying in those regions too. 

As we get closer to Brexit, questions are being asked as to what sort of trade agreements we shall negotiate. The major theme appears to be that we attempt to keep what we have with the remaining twenty seven countries in the European Union and then go beyond to create new agreements beyond those twenty seven countries. Personally I am sceptical about just how many of the existing deals with the remaining twenty seven countries we shall be able to maintain but time shall tell. 

As the United Kingdom Government is set to spend £250m on a new lorry park at Dover, it’s clear that the route to Europe is still envisaged as being from the south of England. But this creates logistical problems as we are moving the goods via road and rail to get to a port at the very South of the United Kingdom. The additional transportation costs for companies based North of Watford makes their goods more expensive and there is also additional environmental damage related to the transportation of the goods by road over such a distance. 

Amidst these negotiations we, especially in Scotland, must keep an open mind and look to create new markets and trade with a wider range of countries. With that in mind we could do well to look North rather than South. The Nordic countries and Baltic states should be high on the list of potential trading partners. But we need to improve the infrastructure to make that possible. The port of Liverpool has seen massive private investment of £250m but Hull (on the East coast) hasn’t. Greenock will see an increase in container ships as it is fed from Liverpool. Aberdeen could be expanded as a port with road and rail links improved accordingly. Whether it is part of the European Union, European Economic Area or European Free Trade Association we have to expand our horizons. But as Scotland can’t negotiate foreign trade deals we rely on the United Kingdom’s Government to do that for us. I expect the new car park for nearly four thousand lorries near Dover will be getting utilised sooner rather than later and the Northern regions along with Scotland shall be expected to put up and shut up when it comes to the extra cost and pollution that causes.