THE port of Southampton could be in for a trade bonanza when Britain leaves the EU, predicts a top government minister.

As MPs restarted the Brexit debate, Secretary of State for International Trade Dr Liam Fox claims Southampton could benefit majorly from new trade agreements.

Dr Fox said that when the UK leaves the EU on March 29, it will begin to negotiate new deals with the US, Australia, New Zealand and could also do a deal with countries in the Pacific Rim.

He said that UK was considering joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which covers 11 countries around the Pacific Rim, including Australia, Canada and Japan, as well as some of the world’s fastest growing economies like Malaysia and Vietnam.


Trade with the US, Australia, New Zealand and the 11 CPTPP countries was worth more than £7 billion to Hampshire and the Isle of Wight last year, with more than £20 billion worth of goods passing through the Solent in 2017, 13 per cent of the UK’s total trade with these countries.

In recent years Southampton has become the UK’s main port for car exports and vehicles to the 14 priority markets was worth just under £6bn in 2017.

Southampton is the UK’s second busiest port after Felixstowe, with 14 per cent of the nation’s imports.

It is the UK’s leading export port, handling £40 billion of exports every year including 90 per cent destined for countries outside the EU. The total trade handled by the port is worth some £75 billion.

Dr Fox said: “For the first time in over 40 years we will be able to determine the terms of our trade, putting the UK at the heart of the world’s fastest growing regions such as Asia.

“The port of Southampton is instrumental to the exporting success of many UK businesses and it will be essential in helping them to reap the benefits that will come from new free trade agreements with countries around the world.

“I’d like to thank the Southampton port workers for their hard work this year contributing to international trade, especially those that have been working over the festive period.”


Conservative MP for Southampton Itchen, Royston Smith echoed Dr Fox’s optimism. He said: “Leaving the EU was always going to benefit us. People do not believe so and they are entitled to their own opinion, but 90 per cent of our trade is already with countries outside of the EU, so increasing international trade will benefit the Port of Southampton with these new trade deals.

“The more trade that the UK does with the rest of the world, even the EU, is important, but is declining and the rest of the world is growing rapidly, so these deals will benefit the UK, and Southampton specifically.

“I am optimistic because this country is good enough to stand on its own and to fight and make its mark on the global stage.”

Royston Smith.Royston Smith.

A spokesman for Associated British Ports, who owns and operates the port, said: ““International trade is the lifeblood of the nation’s economy and the Port of Southampton will continue to serve as a vital gateway to the world, helping to deliver jobs and driving prosperity both regionally and nationally.”

However, some believe while Brexit may bring trading benefits to the port these will not outweigh the damaged done to the wider regional economy

Mike Biden, the spokesman for pro-EU group European Movement, Hampshire, said: “These deals will not replace the exports from Hampshire to the EU lost due to Brexit.

“Our biggest exporters are in the aerospace sector. They depend on EU space and defence programmes.

“There are 15 locations in Hampshire which are suppliers to Airbus, all are being required to relocate critical manufacturing activities to within the EU.

“Deals like this also pose a major threat to Hampshire farmers who cannot compete with the low cost producers in New Zealand, Australia and Canada.”

Prime Minister Theresa May postponed the “meaningful vote” on her Brexit deal in the face of likely defeat in December. It is now expected to be held next Tuesday with a debate in Parliament taking place from tomorrow.

Yesterday Brexit minister Kwasi Kwarteng brushed aside suggestions that the Government had accepted it would lose the vote and was planning to then go back to Brussels for more concessions before staging a fresh Commons division. “The plan is to win the vote on Tuesday, or whenever it comes,” Mr Kwarteng told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.