Brexit expert calls Grimsby 'free port' plans 'pie in the sky thinking'

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 22 Nov 2017

One of the country's leading experts in Brexit has called the Grimsby's seafood industry's hopes for a "free port" in the town "pie in the sky thinking".

Professor Alex De Ruyter of Birmingham City Business School, the founder of the country's first Brexit studies centre, is currently touring the country and speaking with people about why they voted for or against leaving the EU and how it may affect them in the future.

He is currently in Grimsby as part of his tour where he held a public meeting last night in Centre4, and will be visiting the docks today in an attempt to speak with representatives from the seafood industry about how they feel leaving will affect trade.

Professor De Ruyter believes there is little hope for Grimsby and Immingham ports to receive a special "free" status post Brexit.

He said: "For towns like Grimsby that are very heavily dependent on the fishing industry and the trade around fish in particular, Brexit will have a big impact, which is apparent in the delegation from Grimsby seafood and the Humber going down to meet with George Eustice today.

READ MORE: Brexit exemption sought for town’s seafood trade

"The issue has clearly been established by the sector who want to see Grimsby become a free trade zone for fish, which is understandable, but my own view is that it amounts to cherry picking by another name.

"Therefore there is very little incentive for this coming from other ports within the EU, who do want to see a return tariff and exchange for this.

Grimsby Fish Market. The seafood industry has sought a special status after Brexit.

"If you are from Bremerhaven or another port there is a every incentive for you not to want to replicate such a move, so you can see the sector being affected quite heavily."

Professor De Ruyter also felt that in this region in particular Brexit was seen as a referendum on migration, as locals felt that their area's public services were already struggling and the addition of European workers were only adding to that.

READ MORE: Free trade deal could bring prosperity back to Humber, but at what price?

He continued: "When you peel back people's concerns over migration you find another layer you then uncover deeper concerns over basic provisions such as housing, quality of education or the state of the NHS.

"The sad thing is that none of these things are going to improve if people's desires in some quarters are to see migrants leave and that the UK is over fulfilled.

Grimsby Dock Tower. (Image: Keith Brumby)

"While people may recall against the notion that their towns are no longer theirs anymore, migrants clearly provide essential services and for sectors such as the NHS with its reliance on EU doctors and nurses, if we lose these resources it may end up hurting the people who felt that leaving the EU was a win for them.

READ MORE: New bid to celebrate what's 'Made Great in Grimsby'

"I do not think the NHS will get any better, there was the notion that the NHS would be £350 million better off, but I see no evidence of that and Philip Hammond has promised no new money for the NHS, if anything funding in real terms will drop.

"I have tried to make a stance where I see what opportunities Brexit will bring, but on the balance of things I predict that life is going to get more difficult."



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