Nautilus International has cautiously welcomed approval of the future trade agreement with the European Union (EU) by the UK Parliament. Whilst the deal does not include many of the assurances that the Union has been seeking during the last four years, it does mean that a no-deal Brexit has been avoided.
The continuation of tariff-free trade with the European Union will come as a relief to the UK maritime sector, especially in light of the problems that delays in trade can cause, as was seen when many countries closed borders to the UK due to a new variant of the Covid-19 virus just before Christmas.
However, while the agreement will avert some of the likely downside caused by the UK defaulting to World Trade Organization rules on 1 January 2021, Nautilus has warned that much of the detail still needs to be resolved before the full impact on the UK maritime sector, and UK seafarers, can be fully understood.
The 1,240-page agreement was finally reached by the EU and UK on Christmas Eve, and passed by Parliament on 30 December, just two days before the New Year's Day deadline. This leaves next to no time for the maritime sector to adjust to any unexpected arrangements to cross border trade, which the Union has warned will lead to a bumpy road ahead.
Commenting, Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson said:
'We have been clear from the start that a no-deal Brexit would have serious implications for UK seafarers and the UK maritime sector more widely, so we welcome the fact that this deal has been approved.
'However, our members working on ships of other EU shipping registers still need reassurances that their Certificates of Competency will continue to be recognised and what steps will be taken to expedite this recognition.
'Alongside this, the UK government needs to stand by its commitment to maintaining standards and parity with Europe on for example social and employment standards and not engage in a new race to the bottom.'