Monday, February 6, 2017

Road Haulage Association Warns of Food Import Problems Post Brexit

(cos Lettuce Shortage May Just be Tip of the Iceberg)
Shipping News Feature
UK – The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has sounded a warning note saying that the government needs to be on good form in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations in order to maintain the existing food supply chain which has recently seen problems with shortages of lettuces and courgettes leading to some supermarkets rationing the product. The necessity to maintain free trade, particularly with regard to foodstuffs, will be one of the main points of discussion in the ongoing talks with Britain’s ex partners. RHA chief executive Richard Burnett summed up the situation thus:

“Nearly 30% of all food consumed in the UK comes from the EU and it all arrives in lorries. At the moment, the process is seamless. It’s as easy to deliver from Milan to Manchester as it is from Manchester to Leeds as far as customs processes are concerned. After Brexit, that will no longer be the case, and we have to get the new processes right. Otherwise the system for getting food into the country could grind to a halt.

”We are not re-assured by recent government statements. The White Paper suggests that HMRC has a world-class customs service. For EU continental road haulage it has NO system. It will face new challenges and government must recognise that and assure business that HMRC will have whatever resources it requires to get the job done.

”The RHA welcomes the government’s commitment to cross-border trade being as frictionless as possible. But customs process for containers and air freight will not work for the millions of trucks that move through Dover and our ports. There are nearly 4.5 million journeys between the UK and Europe each year that are HMRC-free at the moment. These trucks carry jobs, components, products, and 30% of our food."

The RHA boss says he fears that massive queues of trucks could build up at ports with not enough experienced staff to cope with a backlog while fresh food supplies rot. Those who remember pre Common Market freight forwarding in Britain will shudder at the thought of returning to the days of the complexity of European truck movements in the early 1970’s and even the comparative simplicity of T documents which marked the early days of Britain’s European adventure.

With exports to Britain far exceeding imports it is to be hoped that the mandarins in Brussels and Strasbourg will understand that, whatever the ill feeling engendered by the UK’s decision, it will profit nobody to limit trade by introducing slower documentary procedures, let alone tariff barriers.

The RHA has published its own views on the forthcoming negotiations in ‘Brexit – A Haulage Perspective’ viewable in this link.