Friday, December 7, 2018

Logistics Bosses Back Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to Ensure Supply Chain Freight Flows Unhindered

Bosses from Road Haulage to Food Storage Agree Deal - With Some Reservations
Shipping News Feature
UK – Downing Street somewhat resembled the M25 in the past week or so as a steady stream of visitors were summoned to meetings to hear the government's take on why the Brexit deal on the table is a good option for Britain. Callers included the great and the good from a range of industries, financial services, advanced manufacturing, food and drink and retail, alongside business lobby organisations and trade associations, and the freight, logistics and road haulage sectors were there to represent the entire international supply chain.

The meetings saw numerous government figures overseeing the discussions including the Secretaries of State for Transport, Business, and Exiting the EU, as well as the Prime Minister herself, who doubtless reiterated the statement of 25 November ‘40 reasons to back the Brexit deal’. The government has also released a series of videos to tell everyone why they believe this is a good arrangement.

Amongst the hundreds of companies in attendance with services and manufacturing interests who questioned the government spokespersons, Shell, BT, the NFU, fund managers Blackrock, London First et al, was the Food Storage and Distribution Federation (FSDF) whose Chief Executive, Shane Brennan, who issued a statement prior to a roundtable discussion hosted by Chris Grayling MP, saying:

“This meeting is part of our ongoing commitment to play a constructive role in supporting the government in its planning for all outcomes of the ongoing Brexit negotiations. Food storage and distribution businesses are focused on working with their customers to find solutions to whatever disruption that may result from a breakdown in agreement on a suitable transition to a new trading relationship between the UK and the EU.

“We support the Withdrawal Agreement, because it provides the necessary certainty for businesses seeking to manage an effective food supply chain. Any other scenario, from a no deal Brexit to a further protracted period of uncertainty will add regrettable costs and disruption. We urge MPs to reach an agreement as soon as possible.

“We are also clear in our message to the Government about the severe impacts of the labour shortages that are already present across our distribution and warehouse operations. These will only be exacerbated by poorly thought through post-Brexit immigration policy. We want to see continued access to non-UK labour for key roles in our supply chain and no artificial or arbitrary barriers that make it harder to run our businesses.”

The meeting with Mr Grayling, just yesterday, was attended by Road Haulage Association (RHA) Chief Executive Richard Burnett, who understands better than most the perils of any unsatisfactory arrangement which might impede the flow of goods. Whilst realising that the withdrawal agreement leaves many issues unresolved, and is still subject to further negotiation with the EU regarding a reciprocal long term arrangement, the RHA boss believes the extra time the implementation period gives is vital for new processes and systems to be put in place along the supply chain.

With the haulage industry struggling to fill driver and other vacancies and many current EU workers choosing to leave, Mr Burnett called on ministers to make changes to immigration rules after Brexit to accommodate this, and further says the transitional period also gives time for advances in border control technology which might prove the solution in avoiding disastrous queues at ports and a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. He observed:

“The current withdrawal agreement is a solution for the UK’s all-important haulage industry which will keep the supply chain moving. A rejection of the withdrawal agreement, without an alternative transitional period, means that the industry responsible for moving the UK economy, will stagger towards a cliff-edge disaster. A deal will avoid reliance on an acute shortage of permits and measures for customs that are unworkable and impractical.

”We continue to argue with Government for future immigration rules that do not to exclude lorry drivers from the definition of skilled workers, so the bar is not set too high and excludes these vital, skilled and trained workers from jobs in the UK. It is essential that lower-paid skilled workers are still allowed to fill vacancies where there is a need for qualified staff in the UK.

"The RHA has never taken a political view on Brexit, but the RHA’s Board of Directors feel parliamentary approval for a deal that includes a transition period is essential to avoid crippling the supply chain. The RHA believes any outcome delivered by Parliament that fails to deliver this is irresponsible.”

Photo: The Rt. Hon. Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport arriving at Downing Street.