Monday, December 11, 2017

Brexit News Cheers Road Haulage Freight and Forwarding Interests

Associations Greet Government Progress
Shipping News Feature
UK – EUROPE – It is safe to say that, when the subject of Brexit is mentioned in the company of anyone linked to the supply chain, there is often a note of cynicism. From shipping companies to road haulage operatives there is often an inherent mistrust of the competence of the political class to manage what is undoubtedly one of the most complex exercises undertaken in the world of modern commerce. With the latest developments however three of the biggest lobby groups representing the British freight industry are expressing cautious optimism that things are finally getting on track for an organised extrication from the EU and Robert Keen, Director General of the British International Freight Association (BIFA), which represents the majority of UK forwarding agents, commented:

“Our members, which form the bulk [of the] UK logistics sector will be breathing a sigh of relief that the UK and European Commission have reached agreement on phase 1 issues. There is still plenty of hard work to do, but this does appear to mean that discussions on transitional arrangements and our future trading relationship with the EU can now commence. The focus for the UK Government must now be on agreeing a transition deal, and explaining to business and the country as a whole what kind of trading relationship it is looking for in the long-term.

“The most pressing concern for our members has been the matter of the future trading relationship between the UK and the EU, especially Customs procedures post-Brexit. The Phase 2 negotiations need to remove the uncertainty that is currently faced by a large number of traders over the matter of future Customs declarations once the UK leaves the European Union (EU).

“We are actively involved with HMRC and have always recommended that there needs to be wider engagement with all who are engaged in processing international trade to give them as much time as possible to prepare and to allay fears. We will be continuing with our lobbying efforts to make sure that our members and the trading companies that they serve get better and more regular information about the likely Customs implications of Brexit.

“As the details of any trade deal emerge, BIFA will continue to work closely with HMRC to help ensure a successful delivery of systems that will meet the needs of our members who, at the end of the day, are responsible for facilitating a considerable proportion of the UK’s visible trade.”

British hauliers particularly welcomed the news that will definitely be no ‘hard border’ between the Republic and Northern Ireland. Visions of long interminable queues of trucks awaiting customs clearance haunted any with a vested interest but, despite Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar commenting his government did not want to see a border in the Irish Sea, Road Haulage Association (RHA) chief executive Richard Burnett, observed:

“We hope that the successful outcome of these particular border issues can be reflected in negotiations over cross-border traffic between other EU member states. However, our big concern is that we can strike a deal for free-flowing lorry traffic across the Channel.”

The news that the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said ‘sufficient progress’ has been made in the Brexit negotiations to move on to phase 2 (transition & trade) was encouraging, says the Freight Transport Association (FTA). But, the organisation adds, there is an urgent need to now translate this good political will into action and to reach a swift agreement on a transitional deal providing clarity and certainty to businesses. This is needed to ensure that business can continue to operate efficiently and trade to flow freely to and from the UK. Pauline Bastidon, Head of European Policy, made the FTA position clear saying:

“Today’s announcement is the first block in the wall but there is still much work to be done and clarification required on the key issues affecting trade and logistics and on the timelines that businesses will have to work to. As a first step, today’s recommendation by the European Commission needs to be validated by EU-27 leaders at the December European Council next week. Negotiators will then be able to agree the details of a transitional agreement, which is now an urgent priority to give business the assurance needed to continue to operate efficiently.

“There are still many complex issues that will need to be solved when discussions on the future relationship start, to ensure that goods can continue to flow across borders, not least for transport, trade and customs. The urgency is now to provide clarity to businesses, and that’s why a transition & implementation phase is so crucial. Businesses should only have to adapt to one set of changes and should be given enough time to do so, once new arrangements and rules become clear. Two years is a very short time: it is imperative that business is given sufficient notice to adopt new practices and systems, and ensure that they are correctly staffed to keep Britain trading.”

Photo: Those of us with long memories will shy away of the reintroduction of Customs posts strung all along the Irish border.