Brexit gridlock fear for Heysham M6 Link

Alistair Eagles, CEO, Seatruck Ferries
Alistair Eagles, CEO, Seatruck Ferries
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We don’t want the new M6 Link Road turning into “operation stack”.

That’s the main concern for Seatruck Ferries boss Alistair Eagles, who fears delays due to new customs regulations between England and Ireland could cause traffic chaos.

Seatruck Ferries Point and Progress

Seatruck Ferries Point and Progress

The “disappointed remain voter” said he hoped that mechanisms will be put in place to keep delays to an absolute minimum.

As Brexit negotiations get underway this week, there is still confusion and uncertainty about what the United Kingdom will look like after leaving the EU.

One Lancaster couple, who have run a language translation company for 21 years, have even moved operations to Estonia, to ensure they could continue to trade with their German customers, while a Lancaster mushroom farm boss says he is worried about retaining his largely Eastern European staff base.

Lancaster University Vice Chancellor Prof Mark E.Smith said he continued to seek clarification from the government on issues impacting staff and students.

Kenny Drinkwater

Kenny Drinkwater

Jobs and living standards must come first as the UK negotiates its exit, Chancellor Philip Hammond said.

He said it would require “every ounce of skill and diplomacy” to get the right deal, warning that people didn’t vote for Brexit to be poorer.

He said changes to customs arrangements should be phased in and there should be transitional measures to protect key industries.

Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, warned that Brexit would make people poorer, and called for an “innovative, co-operative and responsible”.

LANCASTER UNIVERSITY vice-chancellor Prof Mark E Smith

LANCASTER UNIVERSITY vice-chancellor Prof Mark E Smith

Alistair Eagles

CEO Seatruck Ferries, Heysham Port

“The primary concern we have is not so much that a reimposition of customs will create delays, but that if there are delays in traffic, there’s a greater requirement of more space, and one of the biggest issues we have at Heysham Port is a lack of space.

“At Dover, if there’s ever a problem, operations stack up on the M20.

“The concern for us with our Heysham to Dublin operations is we don’t want the new M6 Link Road turning into operation stack.

“We’re working closely with the UK government’s Brexit team and HMRC to try and ensure we put in place mechanisms to keep that at an absolute minumum.

“The challenge is that there are two ends to a ferry route, and of course Ireland, France and Belgium might take a different view.

“I feel fairly confident that the traffic coming in won’t suffer too much delay, but I’m concerned about traffic coming out of the UK.

“Our main service at Heysham lands at Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland, which is just two miles from the Irish border.

“Nobody wants to see any return of any hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland.

“But we’re not yet clear on how we deal with that.”

Kenny Drinkwater

Commercial director, Drinkwater Mushrooms

The family business was set up at Hampson Farm, Lancaster, in 1969.

It has an annual turnover of £12m, produces 160 tonnes of mushrooms a year, and employs mainly Eastern European staff.

“Initially, we were mainly staffed by schoolkids at the weekends, and part time ladies after that.

“Then the borders opened and we got the Polish over. We’ve grown by 300 per cent over the years.

“From our point of view, we’ve had no knock on effect from Brexit as yet.

“We employ 250 people permenantly, out of that a good 210 will be Eastern European, Bulgarian and a few Polish.

“I think they must be looking at other countries now, and people may be worried about coming into the UK.

“We work seven days a week, and we don’t shut down at all. Mushroom growing is unique as it’s permanent, so we do need a permanent staff base.

“We run advertisements at the Job Centre in the UK, and eight to nine months a year we’ll get 30-40 new people.

“I think around three or four people from the UK will apply.

There are two ways this can play out.

“Five years ago our staff were on pink cards, if we took them on they’d only be able to work for us.

“The blue cards allowed them to work anywhere. Freedom of movement would be the best case scenario for us.

“It’s quite frustrating, we’ve grown the site, and we would actually like to invest, but with Brexit, we daren’t invest the money.

“I don’t think we’d find the staff base within the UK.

“We’ve had no reassurances. If 20-30 people get a bit scared, if they leave, I think we’d potentially lose out on major contracts.

“The site is worth nothing without the mushrooms.”

Duncan Bell

Technical translation service Techtrans 
Services OU (Ltd).

Still based in Lancaster, they have just set up their previously UK based firm as an Estonian company.

Duncan, 53, who has been self employed for 24 years said: “We had a British limited company for 21 years, but we’ve now moved our business to Estonia.

“We started the registration process in March and we now have a bank account for the new company.

“There was no guarantee how things were going to work after the referendum, but we had to have a company limited by guarantee with a VAT number, so that we could continue to trade with our German customers.

“We don’t deal with individuals, we deal with big companies.

“The way we used to do it, we received payments into a German bank account.

“The trouble was that we had already been told by a German bank that we won’t be able to retain it because we’re not residents.

“Today, the Euro is worth 86p. To protect ourselves from fluctuations in the exchange rate, we need to have a mechanism to be able to continue to service our EU customers. And that is by trading through the Estonian company.

“As a result we will no longer pay corporation tax in the UK anymore.

“ It’s the Estonian government that will be benefitting from this.

“After protecting ourselves as a business, we will no longer be affected by Brexit.

There’s a genuine climate of fear out there. People are scared.

“A real government would have set out a policy. There’s no actual leadership.

“The companies are starting to relocate already. The future is looking bleak.”

Lancaster University Vice-Chancellor 
Professor Mark E.Smith

“A key priority for Lancaster University is to convince the UK Government to take steps to ensure that staff and students from EU countries can continue to work and study at British universities and to promote the UK as a welcoming destination for the brightest and best minds.

“We will stay true to our principles and remain as welcoming as ever to the most talented staff and students from across Europe and around the world.

“We continue to seek clarification on issues that directly impact our EU and international staff and students post-Brexit, for example leave to remain and the implications of visa changes for staff or students.”