Thursday, September 23, 2021

Freight Association Gets a Quick Response from Government on Brexit Queries

Has the Penny Finally Dropped as Logistics Dominates the Headlines?
Shipping News Feature

UK – Last week we criticised government officials when we accused them of lacking comprehension with regard to logistics in general and the far reaching effects of Brexit in particular. We mentioned how they were finally beginning to understand some of the complexities, and this week they have stepped up and responded to some searching questions which were raised at the British International Freight Association (BIFA) webinar which prompted the article.

A week on from that online seminar BIFA has welcomed the quick response from UK government to some of those many questions from participants. With an uncanny sense of timing the pre-arranged BIFA webinar entitled ‘EU Exit - Unfinished Business’ went ahead last Wednesday (15 September) less than 24 hours after the government announced delays to implementing the regulatory timetable for the UK’s exit from the EU.

The revised timetable was hailed by the government as a common sense delay to allow shipping interests even more time to adapt to the post-Brexit world, but prompted a guarded response from BIFA members in the online discussion which included presentations from the trade association that represents the UK forwarding and logistics sector, as well as from HMRC, DEFRA, and French port authorities.

The webinar, held by the country’s leading organisation for freight forwarders, and in which over 300 BIFA members participated, clarified some of what many still need to know, while still raising a multitude of questions and queries. BIFA director general, Robert Keen observed:

“Promises were given from the participants that they would be providing clarity on the questions raised, and it is pleasing that some of those promises are already being delivered, with updates and answers already being made available.

“Many of the questions were about Safety and Security Declarations, and we appreciate the government’s latest announcement that provides a document that consolidates all the information in one place, provides a level of detailed clarity that had been missing, and also provides the data elements required to file a declaration in the UK system.

“It has not been easy for anyone involved in managing the supply chains that underpin international trade to handle the combined problems of exiting the EU and the Covid outbreak. In many cases, BIFA members have had to rebuild supply chains, particularly for import cargoes.

“BIFA has continually told relevant government departments that communication is key as our members that are involved in UK - EU trade move from what has been principally a transport operation for the last 30 years, to one that involves comprehensive freight forwarding activities, post Brexit.”

While it is the view of BIFA that the UK government is now starting to better understand the complexities of these cross border trade processes, BIFA added that whilst it welcomes the immediate response to some of the questions raised, its members now require clarity on issues not yet touched upon, such as whether the delayed timetable impacts on the rolling replacement timetable by which CHIEF, the system through which customs declarations are managed, will be replaced by CDS.

The digital event was a valuable opportunity for BIFA to facilitate a direct and frank discussion between its members and senior HMRC and DEFRA officials. The questions and general comments reinforced the concerns expressed by BIFA to government over a period of years on behalf of its membership, and the trade association says it will continue its dialogue with the authorities to ensure all matters are resolved as quickly as possible.

The webinar also fulfilled in a digital format two of BIFA’s main goals, to keep members informed and secondly to ensure that their views are expressed to relevant government departments. Keen concluded:

“The event received a 97% approval rating from all attendees and based on the feedback, BIFA is now discussing with government officials better ways to ensure that members receive the additional information that they require.”