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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Post-Brexit, Northern gateway to Europe 'more important than ever'

  • Northern ports sign ground-breaking agreement to ensure a coherent voice for ports freight and logistics in trade discussions ahead - but North can’t sit around waiting for Whitehall to negotiate Brexit, thinktank warns
  • £100m government investment is needed in trans-Pennine road and rail links to open up an East-West Freight Supercorridor and support the £1billion investment made by ports themselves, report says
  • Despite Northern ports punching above their weight, over half of all containers arriving in southern ports end up north of Birmingham – this creates unnecessary logistical as well as environmental problems

Whatever the outcome of EU negotiations following the Brexit vote, trade with Europe remains more important than ever, leading thinktank IPPR North says in a new report.

With over half of all international trade destined for the EU – more than London and most other English regions – the North can ill afford any significant disruption to these vital trading relationships.

The North's major ports operators have brokered a ground-breaking agreement to pursue a Northern Ports Strategy, developed by IPPR North, to work together to create new jobs in and around ports, and boost investment in the Northern logistics network. This will be launched in Liverpool on 29 June.

At present, 60 per cent of freight destined for the North is delivered to southern ports - leading to unnecessary motorway traffic, delays, pollution and inefficiency.

The report calls for new investment to improve transport and freight links across the North in order to create an East-West Freight Supercorridor linking Atlantic shipping to the European mainland and taking pressure off congested north-south routes.

Director of IPPR North, Ed Cox, said:

"Britain was a trading nation long before the European Union was ever thought of, and that fact will not change despite the Brexit vote. We need a global North now like never before, so it is fantastic to see the North's port operators coming together to work so closely.

“The nature of any new European trade agreement will be vital, but the measures set out in our new Northern Ports Strategy provide a framework upon which any new deal must be based.

"To continue to punch above their weight, we need to see government investment to back that of the ports. With over £1billion invested in the ports themselves, government must now put in its £100m to create an East-West Freight Supercorridor and end the costly and inefficient movement of lorries up and down the country.”

Report author Laurie Laybourn-Langton, research fellow at IPPR, added:

"Despite the challenges currently facing Northern ports, they have made massive, long-term investment in facilities that will benefit the North of England for many decades to come. To maximise those investments, national and local players need to join up their efforts to boost jobs in key sectors such as advanced manufacturing, process industries and offshore wind.

“Our Northern Ports Strategy provides a framework for making a real difference to the Northern economy and the basis for unprecedented co-operation between the major port operators.”



Ash Singleton, IPPR North, 07887 422 789,

Sarah Horner, IPPR, 07584 604607,

Notes to Editors:

The report is available on request and will be available from 00.01h Wednesday 29 June here:

The report is being launched in Liverpool tomorrow, as part of the city hosting the International Festival of Business 2016.

While the overwhelming majority of British goods – 95 per cent – come and go through ports new analysis shows that Northern ports are ‘punching above their weight’: the region is home to 24 per cent of the UK population but transports 56 per cent of the UK’s rail tonnage, 35 per cent of road tonnage and accommodates 35 per cent of total port throughput.

The IPPR North report makes 15 separate recommendations including:

  • Local port growth strategies – to be developed by northern port operators together with local businesses, local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships to produce an adopted port master plan.
  • Creation of East-West Freight Supercorridor – Transport for North, Department for Transport and Network Rail must accelerate gauge improvements on this axis as part of wider passenger capacity improvement.
  • Development of new models of transport scheme appraisal – to take better account of value of freight movements to wider economy.
  • Long-term energy strategy – Government to set out a clear and consistent plan on which businesses – energy sector and supply chains/ancillary industries – can plan long-term investment.
  • Reform of Mode Shift Revenue Support and Waterborne Freight Grant – Government to provide clear guidance in National Planning Policy Framework and National Policy Statement for Ports to support modal shift from road to rail and to coastal feedering and significantly reduce costly and inefficient North-South lorry movements.