Wednesday, January 18, 2017

UK Freight and Logistics Bodies Have Mixed Reactions to Mays Brexit Speech

Lack of Detail Disconcerting for Some in the Industry
Shipping News Feature
UK – The speech by Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday concerning the British government’s position on Brexit and confirmation that her government would proceed with plans to withdraw Britain from the European Union has alleviated concerns from ‘Leave’ advocates that that she intends to follow through on the referendum results and set out some of the basic agenda for the negotiations that will entail. However, the lack of solid details has alarmed some parties in the UK’s freight and logistics industry as they continue to be concerned about how quitting will the EU will affect their members.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA), the UK’s largest transport trade association with around 16,000 members, said that it supports the Prime Minister’s vision of Britain’s likely future relationship with the UK’s European and global trading partners. The FTA said that it ‘…welcomes her commitment to “tariff-free and frictionless trade” with the European Union and to ambitious free trade agreements with other partners globally. Her statement allows the FTA to identify where the new “friction points” in international trade could occur and work with the government to negotiate the best possible outcome for UK businesses’.

The FTA also pointed out that the reliance of the UK road transport industry on EU nationals who work as drivers, warehouse operatives and in other key roles across the sector meant that the continued ability of the freight industry to employ and recruit these key workers was essential to their future business success and that the FTA would be seeking assurances that the government recognises and accommodates the essential needs of the logistics sector.

However, the British International Freight Association (BIFA) said that whilst Prime Minister Theresa May’s much anticipated speech yesterday has delivered some clarity on the UK’s plans to leave the European Union’s single market, it remains short on the details that will assist and reassure its membership as they go about their business and that was an issue of continuing concern. Robert Keen, Director General of BIFA, said:

“Our members across the country over the last few months have been dealing with a lot of uncertainty. They would have welcomed clarity on the mechanics that will underpin Mrs May’s desire for ‘tariff-free and frictionless trade’.

“Theresa May has promised to take Britain out of the EU single market and pledged to seek a ‘bold and ambitious’ trade agreement with the bloc. The Prime Minister said that she wanted ‘an ambitious customs agreement with the EU’ while rejecting the Customs Union because of the common external tariff that prevents Britain from negotiating separate trade deals with third countries.

“As we said last year, as Brexit unfolds, there will many issues affecting visible trade and the work of our members who facilitate that trade. After [yesterday’s] speech, BIFA is hoping that the government has a fundamental understanding of all of the possible permutations and challenges in regards to our future trading relationships with Europe and the rest of the world, post membership of the EU.

“Freight forwarding Executives are none the wiser on the actual mechanics of Britain’s future trading relationships and how they might affect the freight forwarding sector. Will Customs reintroduce EU transaction border controls? Will the replacement for CHIEF go ahead and will the new system be able to handle the millions of extra transactions? How will controls on dual use items be managed?

“Mrs May has made reference to maintaining the common travel arrangements between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, but how will freight be managed between the two countries?

“What our members need from Government is some answers to those questions. As the old saying goes, the devil is in the details. And after [yesterday’s] much anticipated speech, much of the real detail is missing.”