AN MEP has vowed to continue her fight to protect UK ports from potentially damaging EU rules, after Euro members voted today against an exemption for privately-owned ports such as Southampton.

Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder is opposing the Port Services Regulation which is aimed at improving the competitiveness of ports across Europe.

A final vote on the new law was postponed, meaning negotiations will now begin between MEPs and governments including the UK.

Ms Bearder commented: "I am deeply disappointed at today's result, but we must remember there is still a long way to go.

"I will continue fighting to ensure the interests of privately-owned ports like Southampton are protected, working closely with the UK government and British MEPs to secure a better result.

"Our ports are our gateway for trade to Europe, the best way to defend local jobs is by staying in the EU and keeping our voice at the table."

David Leighton,  head of public affairs and corporate communications, for ABP, who own the port of Southampton, described the proposed legislation  as complicated and unclear and labelled it a “journey into the unknown”.

The regulations are intended to promote competition

However Mr Leighton commented: “We have 120 commercial ports in the UK competing for business so we have inter port competition, we don’t need that extra layer of legislation even even if it may be necessary in other parts of Europe, although there is already existing legislation to remedy issues if they do exist.”

As a piece of legislation “its purpose has become unclear and it would deprive businesses like ours of long-term certainty,” he told the Echo.

He said the that uncertainty would make it harder for ABP to attract investment and put them at a disadvantage against state-funded ports like Hamburg in Germany which had received a 1 billion Euros in in government funding since 2009.

“We need to attract private investment we cannot rely on federal government handouts,” he commented.

The proposed regulations are based on proposals in a report by Knut Fleckenstein who is an MEP from Hamburg.

Mr Leighton said it was unclear how the regulation of charges would be implemented.

The wording of the bill states “charges shall be not be disproportionate to the economic value of the services”.

He said it was possible that the setting of charges could end up being decided by the courts.

Britain was not the only EU member nation opposed to the regulations – Spain and Poland are also against the laws.

UKIP Transport spokesman Jill Seymour had earlier told the Strasbourg chamber that regulation of port services was neither required, nor wanted, in the United Kingdom.

“The EU has tried to regulate ports without success on two previous occasions, and this is the third attempt.

“As the majority of ports in the UK are privately owned, successful and efficient, it is not for the EU to regulate British ports.”

She added: “With the Brexit referendum on June 23, the people of the United Kingdom will vote to leave, and we will free ourselves from the excessive rules, regulations and red tape imposed by this place.”