Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Even Freight Forwarding Professionals Cannot Understand What is Next for Brexit

Survey of Industry Professionals Indicates Extreme Concerns
Shipping News Feature

UK – When members of the general public respond to questions about Brexit the answers can be mixed and opinionated. However when the respondents are exclusively from professionals in the freight forwarding community, and they overwhelmingly have significant reservations as to the future trading relationship and the effects of the changes on the supply chain, it is time to be concerned.

Along with the country’s other logistics related trade associations the British International Freight Association (BIFA) has been lobbying government on the issues for literally years trying to explain the potential pitfalls and what will be needed to overcome them. Now the organisation has published the results of a survey of its members, and it’s not looking good.

The majority of respondents are worried as to whether they will have the capacity to handle the major changes to the UK’s trading relationship at the start of 2021, including of course such as the new customs documentation and procedures, many of which at this late stage are still untried.

Robert Keen, Director General of the trade association that represents Britain’s freight forwarding companies says he believes that the results of BIFA’s latest survey of members clearly demonstrates that much greater clarity is needed on government plans for the border.

“The results indicate that the recent publication of the Border Operating Model and Moving Goods Under the Northern Ireland Protocol have not greatly assisted members' understanding of procedures regarding imports and exports between the EU and UK, and GB and Northern Ireland, respectively.”

In a general question on their understanding of the Government’s plans for the border after the end of the Transition period, more than half of the respondents said that they either had no knowledge, or what knowledge they do have needs improving.

In regards to the Border Operating Model, whilst 70% of respondents said they understand the Customs procedures required to import goods into the UK from the EU at the end of the Transition period; less than half said that was the case in regards to Safety and Security Declarations. This was also the case with respondents that are involved in the import of live animals, and/or products of animal origin; as well as fresh fruit and vegetables.

The results were broadly similar for procedures to be followed for export movements from the UK to EU. Although 79% said they have no understanding of import procedures in individual EU Member States regarding export movements from the UK to EU.

Asked whether they understand the correct processes relating to trade between mainland GB and NI under the Moving goods under the Northern Ireland Protocol, the overwhelming majority of respondents said they do not understand the Customs procedures, nor the safety and security declarations that will be required.

When asked about their familiarity with the following processes/organisations, the negative responses were equally worrying. More than half of the respondents said they had no familiarity with the Goods Vehicle Management System (GVMS); whilst more than two thirds said the same about the Smart Freight Service; and the Trader Support Service (Northern Ireland only). Keen concluded:

“In a similar survey conducted in May this year, 50% felt they would not have sufficient staff to undertake the additional Customs-related work that will be required from January 1st 2021. In the latest survey that has increased to 64% of respondents, which makes sense in light of the fact that 69% of respondents in our latest survey said the Covid-19 pandemic had impacted on their ability to prepare for the end of the Transition period.”