Thursday, October 24, 2019

Road Haulage Boss and Top Security Experts Express Doubts Over Brexit Preparedness

Is the UK Ready for the Changes to Come?
Shipping News Feature

UK – The horrific incident of the deaths of thirty one men and eight women in a reefer trailer this week has brought the logistics sector into sharp focus across the mainstream media and has raised questions over security at ports, even before the changes which leaving the EU will undoubtedly bring. So how ready is Britain for Brexit?

As details of the tragedy in Essex begin to emerge, the migrants who died now appear to be of Chinese origin, Richard Burnett, CEO of the Road Haulage Association (RHA) was interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Lives’ programme and commented that the case highlighted the fact that these matters don’t just involve goods, but people’s lives. When asked if he thought that Border Force were on top of the situation, he replied:

“If I’m honest, no, my sense is that for a long time we have not been listened to. We have not been taken seriously as an industry. For years we have been shouting from the rooftops that these things have been happening week in and week out. Despite this I think that the drivers who are making these journeys feel that they are not being heard; that they’re not being listened to or supported. We have tried hard with the Home Office and with Border Force to make sure that the drivers making the journey from the European mainland to the UK have a voice.

“I am of the firm opinion that there is insufficient focus and support and that this issue isn’t being tackled. If you think about Brexit now, how on earth with everything that we are facing can we get the support of the European countries to make sure that we have the proper measures in place to tackle this issue and to prevent it from happening again?”

There will be an International Security Expo held in London’s Olympia from 3-4th December and this week, Bob Rose its Government Liaison and Advisory Council Lead, asked a diverse set of security experts in different industries how they saw implications for the sector post Brexit. Their responses make for a mixed bag of interesting reading.

Dr John Coyne, Head of Border Security at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute provided his personal insights on borders and the coordination of global responses, thus:

”Australia is facing an increasingly uncertain security environment with the Chinese Government continuing to challenge the international rules based order, worrying terrorism trends in its near region and a growing transnational organised crime threat in the Mekong Sub-region. A no deal Brexit would have brought unwanted security complexity for Australia, which would inevitably bring with it new border security and law enforcement challenges.

”While Australia continues to enjoy law enforcement and border security cooperation with UK agencies, a no deal Brexit would have inevitably impacted on the effectiveness of institutions like EUROPOL to coordinate operational activity and intelligence sharing. This would make coordinating global responses to transnational organised crime that little more difficult. Any change that impacts law enforcement cooperation between the UK and the EU member states will also create security vulnerabilities that transnational organised crime groups will be quick to exploit.

”Over 1500 Australian companies have offices in the UK, many of which serve as their European headquarters. With a no deal Brexit, a number of these companies would have likely relocated to the EU. This would in turn lead to increased diffusion of trade channels and money flows. These changes would have corresponding impacts on law enforcement and border security risk profiles especially with respect to such issues as anti-money laundering.”

Chris Fitzgerald, Head of Business Resilience & Security at Thames Water commented on factoring in organisational restructures to ensure an efficient response. He said:

”Security is always of paramount importance to Thames Water and are working with our colleagues in the water sector, Water UK and our regulators on any potential security risks as a result of a no-deal. We have recently merged our cyber and physical security functions at Thames Water to allow a more holistic approach to security so feel we are in a position to factor in any risks identified as a result of any deal or no-deal outcomes.”

Phil Wright CSMP, Director at Security and Cash Centres, Brink's Ltd. (UK), despite his obvious interests in all things financial felt confident in discussing secure logistics and trade agreements, raising some points which may give readers pause for thought. He commented:

”The landmark decision to leave the EU has both positives and negatives in relation to international shipping. Those importing or exporting from the UK by sea, the ability to ship directly from or to the UK is preferred, however, the recent Brexit move risks potentially isolating the UK, which could lead to a lack of direct vessels. As the UK no longer has a large UK-based container fleet, this could result in shippers needing to rely on feeder services although this is very unlikely due to market demand.

”The volume of shipments in and out of the UK could experience a lull short term. A large contributor to this relative decrease in trade volume is the instability and uncertainty of Britain's trade agreements. No longer amongst the EU, the UK must forge new alliances and agreements, which will undoubtedly impact the number of goods coming in and out of the country.

”However, discovering new trade agreements isn’t necessarily a bad thing, they could, in fact, lead to more favourable shipping environments. The potential for increased costs and decreased efficiency is unfortunately very real. Some companies are already lobbying the UK government to ensure that the simplification of shipping process is on the agenda.”

Those in the industry will be aware how the freight and logistics trade associations have been at the forefront of that lobbying, BIFA, the UKWA, FTA, CILT and the RHA have been trying to hammer the message home for months with the government but still we are living in a cloud of uncertainty as certain politicians, at home and abroad, continue to prevaricate.

Hopefully even those dullards in Westminster and Brussels must now see the end process must be in sight and with a little application a reasonable and measured exit may be attained.