Fears there won't be enough staff to check imports on the Humber after Brexit

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 12 Dec 2018

Ports on the Humber face a shortage of specialist staff and facilities of any kind if import checks are introduced once the UK leaves the European Union.

Hull and Goole chief port health officer Laurence Dettman said government officials and ministers were only just "waking up" to the realities on what post-Brexit trading could mean on the ground.

He said: "The simple fact is there are no current physical checks on food arriving here from the EU because of the single market and the evolution of the concept of free and frictionless trade.

"Once we are out of the EU we become a third country and normally that would require some form of inspection regime because we are no longer part of that EU trading system.

One of the new cranes at Queen Elizabeth Dock in Hull

"Even if the government were minded to have say 10 per cent of all food imports checked, it would still require a massive increase in resources and my concern is who would end up footing the bill for that?

"Historically, governments have never provided funding for port health authorities, it's always been local councils."

Read more: Hull port chief raises concerns about what Brexit means for food checks

Mr Dettman is one of just five inspectors at the Hessle Road-based port health health authority which covers both banks of the Humber. The authority also has one part-time technical officer and two administrative staff.

"Staffing is just one issue, suitable port-based inspection facilities are another," said Mr Dettman.

While there is an inspection facility at Hull's King George Dock, there's nothing at the Humber Sea Terminal at Killingholme where roll-on roll-off container ships arrive seven-days-a-week.

Almost all of the 150 million kilos of food imported through the Humber ports every year destined for wholesalers and retailers across the UK comes from the EU.

A ship being loaded up by one of the cranes at ABP (Image: Peter Harbour)

As a result, physical checks are not required because of EU harmonisation rules but they will no longer apply in the UK post-Brexit.

Read more: Hull's growth set to slow as high street plight and Brexit uncertainty hit hard

The government has already said it is planning to waive checks and controls on EU imported food in a no-deal scenario but the ongoing uncertainty over the UK's exit, underlined by this week's postponed parliamentary vote, doesn't help the likes of Mr Dettman and his team.

"We're like everyone else. We're just watching and waiting to see what happens," he said.

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