January 22, 2019 / 12:14 PM / 4 months ago

Stena ferry boss worried over risk of hard Brexit

FILE PHOTO - A Stena Line ferry sails past Poolbeg lighthouse at South Bull Wall in Dublin, Ireland, September 24, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - The head of Swedish ferry operator Stena AB fears major disruption in the event of a hard Brexit but is still hoping that politicians can come up with a solution that allows business as usual.

The comments from Carl-Johan Hagman, little over two months before the March 29 Brexit date, highlighted growing disquiet among businesses that had long assumed Britain and the EU would reach an amicable divorce.

That assumption was thrown into doubt last week when the British parliament defeated Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan by a majority of 230.

“We’re really hoping for and banking on the fact that the people will come to their senses and that we will have regimes that will ensure that we can continue the way that we’re doing today,” said Hagman, whose company provides services linking Britain to several EU countries.

“And we just keep our fingers crossed and hope that we will have well thought-through policymakers that will make good policy, I hope,” he told Reuters Television at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Asked if Stena had a contingency plan, he said the short answer was no. “I think if we get a hard Brexit, the consequences are such that it will be a major disruption and I think it’s very difficult to prepare for that.”

Danish freight company DSV warned last week that a no-deal Brexit could lead to tailbacks stretching the 80 miles (130 km) from London to the port of Dover.

A hard Brexit would lead to “relatively significant congestion” in ports, Hagman said.

“On the other hand we have good examples of, for example, the border between Norway and Sweden where I come from. Norway’s outside the EU and that border works fine. So there are techniques and ways to manage this if you want to and I’m confident that that will be the case.”

Reporting by Johnny Cotton, writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Keith Weir

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