Stakeholders in the shipping industry have urged the UK Government to extend Brexit negotiations amid fears that a no-deal scenario could lead to disruption at ports including Dover, Holyhead and Portsmouth.

Maritime UK, the organisation representing British shipping, ports, marine and business services sectors, called for the government and the European Union (EU) to extend Article 50 talks in case they fail to reach a deal by October.

With its members facilitating 95% of the UK’s total imports and exports, Maritime UK believes the shipping industry could be particularly affected by a hard Brexit, adding that leaders will be unprepared if a settlement is not reached.

According to a survey by the organisation, two thirds of UK business leaders think that a no-deal scenario is likely, while only half have started preparing for it. The survey also showed that over 500 industry stakeholders welcomed the decisions made at the recent Chequers summit in July, which proposed the creation of a free trade area between the UK and the EU, as well as the replacement of the free movement of people with a ‘mobility framework’.

Maritime UK chairman David Dingle said: “Business leaders from across the economy support the maritime sector’s call for a pragmatic Brexit deal that enables frictionless trade. We cannot accept that no deal is better than any deal.”

Dingle added that the industry is increasingly worried about the rising costs and disruptions that could affect their supply chains, especially at ports, in the event of a no-deal scenario.

“Failing to secure a deal will mean delays and disruption at ports like Dover, Holyhead and Portsmouth, but equally at EU ports, including Zeebrugge, Calais and Dublin,” Dingle added.

“We urge both sides to recognise an agreement is in everyone’s interest, and to be pragmatic so that a deal may be agreed quickly. The maritime sector welcomed the Chequers accord and the renewed pragmatism it demonstrated. It’s time that Brussels demonstrates that same pragmatism now.”