Thursday, August 23, 2018

Government Criticised by Road Haulage and Freight Bodies as it Publishes No Deal Brexit Plans

Potential Disaster Requires More than Damage Control or Kent Will Be a Lorry Park
Shipping News Feature
UK – Despite the government expressing confidence that a positive deal for Britain's exit from the European Union can be achieved, it today published guidelines regarding a 'no deal' Brexit which has proved singularly unimpressive to the home based international freight and road haulage community which has reacted with scathing unanimity.

There are instructions now on line with links from organisations such as the British International Freight Association (BIFA) on export control regulations and the shipment of such items. This however is merely scratching the surface of what needs to be done by next March if no deal is signed.

For its part the Freight Transport Association (FTA), whilst welcoming the limited advice made available, has warned that British business still needs detailed information to ensure that the nation continues to trade efficiently after Brexit. The subject of market access for multimodal forms of transit needs fleshing out and solutions offered and the FTA says that more than ‘damage control’ is required to keep the country trading.

Speaking as the Department for Exiting the EU began the publication of the government's strategy papers on the UK's response to a no-deal Brexit, Sarah Laouadi, FTA's European Policy Manager urged negotiators to push for a solution to the issues still to be decided by the two sides, saying:

"No deal would be disastrous for logistics. While preparing for every eventuality, including a no deal position, is a sound strategy, it should not be the end game which negotiators accept. There are clear problems which could face our supply chain if agreements cannot be reached including customs and border arrangements, the continuity of trade agreements and vehicle permits, as well as the continuation of business access to EU workers. Solutions for these areas are key to the continued success of British business, both at home and abroad, after 29 March 2019.

"The UK's supply chain is the blood in the veins of the UK's economy, keeping schools, hospitals and businesses stocked, shop shelves full and retailers provided with the goods they need to prosper. Without quick progress on the key elements that FTA has outlined, the resulting disruption could have disastrous impacts for British and EU business. A no-deal agreement should only be considered once every opportunity to reach a deal has been explored. Negotiators on both sides need to keep working to ensure that Britain and the EU keep on trading, day in, day out."

BIFA has also been vociferous in its concerns about the capacity and readiness of UK customs systems and port infrastructure to cope with a no deal outcome and Robert Keen, Director General, maintained the tone struck by the other concerned entities, commenting:

”It is interesting that the Government has today supplied information to businesses on trading with the EU if there's no Brexit deal. As most of the visible trade that takes place between the EU and the UK is managed by freight forwarders and logistics professionals on behalf of traders, some of the content of the information could be considered rather patronising as those freight forwarders are already aware many of the issues of concern to businesses trading with the EU in the event of no deal.

”What BIFA members actually need is clarity on the arrangements that will be in place in the event of a no deal scenario. How will we deal with a massive increase in the customs entries that will be required in the event of a no deal? Where will we source the huge number of extra staff that may be required to process such a large increase in entries on a new and as yet unproven computer system? Where will HMRC source the extra staff that will be needed to process entries and expedite their training which would normally take up to one year?

”How do we deal with large increase in costs that our customers are unlikely to be expecting and might be unwilling to accept? These are just a few of the additional questions that today's Government statement, which suggests that in a ‘no deal’ scenario full-blown customs controls will apply to two-way trade between the EU and the UK immediately, have raised.”

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) was particularly blunt in its response to today’s pronouncements saying if the UK leaves the EU without a deal then the repercussions for Europe’s supply chain will be ‘a disaster’. The RHA, along with the other associations, has been asking government for clarity for months and says so far none has been forthcoming, with today’s announcements presenting nothing new.

The RHA has in fact met with government ministers on many occasions to discuss the needs of UK transport operators and has stressed that the only way to maintain economic links on both sides of the Channel is to continue with the process of free-flowing borders. If that’s not going to be the case, it says then a no-deal Brexit will be little more than a nail in the coffin of the industry responsible for moving 98% of the UK economy.

As was explained to the BBC yesterday by United Kingdom Warehouse Association (UKWA) CEO Peter Ward, the situation in Dover needs urgent attention with plans put in place for customs clearance, particularly of perishable goods, and the RHA agrees that the future for the people and businesses of Kent looks grim, stating baldly that within a short period of time the Garden of England may become the UK’s biggest lorry park.

Photo: After Operation Stack are we to see even greater numbers of trucks queuing to travel in the opposite direction parked in the Channel ports?