Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Leaked Government Letter Upsets the Freight and Logistics Community

Potential for 7,000 Stranded Trucks is 'Reasonable' Worst Scenario
Shipping News Feature

UK – The government's credibility with the freight and logistics community took another nosedive today after a letter from cabinet minister Michael Gove found its way into the press. The document warned of trucks queuing on Kentish roads, with a potential 7,000 lorries parked up there after Britain exits the EU on 1 January 2021.

It falls to Mr Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to prepare the country for the dreaded ‘no deal' scenario which now looks increasingly likely. He will address the House later today laying out his vision of woe and his office was keen to stress the picture being painted was a ‘reasonable worst case projection, not a forecast’.

It seems despite all the warnings from the logistics lobby the government is still convinced that around 70% of trucks headed for Europe after Brexit will be doing so with incorrect paperwork. This situation might be further worsened if the attitude of the French officials sees them rigorously applying other document checks such as the Schengen passport agreements, something specifically referred to in the letter.

Speaking to a variety of industry stakeholders it looks very much as if the government is the body with little understanding of the situation. Firstly most of the accompanied traffic heading in and out of Europe will not be registered in the UK, foreign hauliers long ago undercut the rates charged by most British firms, together with the paucity of permits allocated to such companies.

Secondly most exporting companies will have had the sense to seek out a suitable freight forwarder (or a mythical ‘customs agent’ as described by the government) to establish exactly what is required under the new regime. One wonders why a driver would be sent to a port such as Dover when knowingly in possession of wrong or incomplete paperwork.

Much is made by Mr Gove of the new SmartFreight IT system and shippers wait with bated breath to see when this is going to actually appear. In response to the leaked document the organisation in the front line as it represents the bulk of the UK’s reputable forwarders, chose to turn to a rugby analogy to illustrate its mood, with British International Freight Association (BIFA), Director General, Robert Keen, saying:

“The Government has received repeated warnings from all sides of the supply chain that neither businesses involved in trade between the EU and the UK, nor the freight and logistics sector that physically handles and manages that trade, is ready for the new procedures that will be in place from January 1st 2021.

“With just over 14 weeks to go before the end of the Brexit Transition Period, traders and logistics providers are still waiting for so much information and clarity from the government and are shocked by the lack of consistency in Government policy, systems planning and procedures.

“Getting their retaliation in first worked for Carwyn James’ British and Irish Lions in South Africa in 1974, but Government making villains of the key workers who have been tackling the impact of the pandemic on the UK’s supply chains, will not have the same success.

“According to the media coverage, Mr Gove says it is essential that traders act now and get ready for new formalities. BIFA says give our members all the information they need, the resources they require and systems that actually work, and they will be more than able to do what is necessary, but don’t start pointing the finger of blame in our direction when you have still to provide all of the tools to do the job.”

For those unfamiliar with the game of Kipling’s muddied oafs, the 99 call which was the signal to simply attack the opposition en bloc used by Willie John McBride’s pride of lions, should not be the defining moment of Carwyn James’ career. Perhaps the government might to better to adopt the general coaching methods for which he was famed and rely on common sense and a well-chosen word in the right ear to bring the Brexit matter to a seemly close.

Photo: The infamous 99 call. The instruction? 'Get your retaliation in first. When you hear it, everyone hit the nearest Springbok, they can’t send us all off!'