Stena Line runs routes from the UK and Ireland to France, Holland and other parts of Europe ©Stena Line
Stena Line runs routes from the UK and Ireland to France, Holland and other parts of Europe ©Stena Line

Anxiety is high over no-deal Brexit, says Stena Line

19 October 2018

A no-deal Brexit could hit food supply and cause significant delays at ports, the ferry company Stena Line has warned.

Ian Hampton, the company's chief people and communications officer, said “anxiety is high” and there is “very little readiness” at ports for the complications of a no-deal scenario.

“We can only do so much. We can’t plan on the basis of what we don’t know, so we’re very anxious about the outcome,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Stena runs routes from the UK and Ireland to France, Holland and other parts of Europe. It is one of the largest ferry operators in the world.

When asked if there could be tailbacks at ports, he said any lack of clarity from government was “creating ambiguity in terms of how we should operate”.

“In reality this could cause significant delay,” he said.

Hampton also warned that software used for checking goods at customs, due to be implemented in March next year, may not be able to cope with the increased volumes.

“We’re concerned about that, I’m not sure it can [deal with it]. This is a system that was not written for the purpose we’re now asking of it,” he said.

“If you’re suddenly reliant on a system which was never built for the purpose by which you're using it, then surely we’d have to question the stability of it.”

Separately, the permanent secretary of the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) declined to say if he is confident the supply of essential medicines would be maintained in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Sir Chris Wormald told MPs he never used words such as “confident”, and that the complexity of medicine supply chains meant he could not issue any guarantees.

“It’s a very complex market and a very complex supply chain,” he said to a meeting of the Leaving the European Union Committee.

“As no one can really predict exactly what will happen, there will be decisions we will have to make along the way,” he said.

“In a business as complex as health we don’t issue assurances and guarantees — nobody can.”

He also repeated that DHSC was working with industry to create a “buffer stock” of medicines in case of supply disruptions at the border, a plan which pro-EU campaign group Best for Britain warned could cost as much as £2bn.

The statement was in line with health secretary Matt Hancock's recommendations set out in a letter to healthcare providers that month.

A CIPS survey also revealed that half-hour border delays could bankrupt 10% of businesses, SM reported last month.

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