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Maritime nation

“Our maritime industries are the foundation of our past success and will be vital to our future prosperity”

By David Leighton  

Southampton's port ©Geni

This article was produced in association with Associated British Ports

Britain is a maritime nation. As an island with a long trading history the country’s prosperity has always been inherently tied to its maritime strength.

Today the UK’s maritime sector is as important as ever. Some 95 per cent of the nation’s trade in goods moves by sea: our ports are the key link providing British businesses with access to global markets. UK sea ports handled an estimated £511 billion worth of goods in 2014, of which £227 billion were exports. The Port of Southampton alone handles over £40 billion worth of exports every year, making it the number one port in the UK for exports. Manufacturers such as JLR and JCB rely on the port to ship their products overseas.

These figures illustrate just how important ports are for the economy. Indeed, that’s also true for the wider maritime sector which contributes £22.2bn to Britain’s GDP and supports some 500,000 jobs. The UK remains a prominent global centre for maritime services in the fields of law, insurance, finance and ship broking, as well as advanced manufacturing, technology and research. For example, Southampton is home to the National Oceanography Centre and the University of Southampton’s Marine and Maritime Institute, both engaged in world-leading research and training.

Building on Britain’s strong maritime and trading tradition is now more important than ever following the result of the EU Referendum. Highlighting the huge contribution the sector makes to the national economy is vital if Britain is to rebuild as a great maritime power, utilising one of its national strengths to ensure and restore confidence in the global marketplace.

The government must be ambitious and visionary in its approach to Brexit negotiations with the EU, and not resign itself to damage limitation. The government should seek to achieve the best possible access to the Single Market, while striving to establish trade deals with the rest of the world as swiftly as possible. The ports industry, and the wider maritime sector, will have to be front and centre in the bid to achieve the best outcome for Britain.

The UK has a long and proud history as an adventurous, outward-looking, trading nation. Our maritime industries are the foundation of our past success and will be vital to our future prosperity.

What made Britain great can make it great again.

With the support of Associated British Ports, Prospect hosted a panel discussion at the 2016 Conservative Party Conference on the future of British trade. The discussion was chaired by Tom Clark, Editor of Prospect. Speakers included: Richard Graham, Conservative MP and Trade Envoy to the ASEAN Economic Community; James Cooper, CEO, Associated British Ports; Francis Maude, Former Minister of State for Trade and Investment; and Adam Marshall, Acting Director General, British Chambers of Commerce.

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