Wednesday, March 29, 2017

UK Freight Forwarding Lobby Takes Up the Brexit Reins

BIFA Gets Involved in the Free Trade Discussions
Shipping News Feature
UK – On the day which British Prime Minister Theresa May invokes Article 50, and the negotiations to engineer the country's exit from union with Europe begins, the logistics community is awash with speculation on how things both should, and are likely to evolve. Leading the charge for the freight forwarding lobby is the British International Freight Association (BIFA) which says it will assist the government on discussions centred around the possibilities of free trade or otherwise.

As wise as ever, Robert Keen, BIFA Director General knows better than to speculate on how the exit process will turn out but says he is determined to ensure that UK forwarders have input into the negotiations which are expected to be turbulent. He comments:

“In the run up to the UK’s eventual exit we will be working with Government to try and ensure that the movement of the UK’s visible import and export trade does not become overburdened by over complicated trade procedures.

“Clearly there are significant areas of concern for our members, which are responsible for much of the physical movement of that trade, over the eventual outcome, including the physical infrastructure, trade arrangements and Customs practices that will be reviewed as part of the Brexit negotiations. I have already gone on the record to warn about the huge number of pundits offering solutions when nobody really knows what is likely to happen in reality.

“BIFA's focus now will be presenting the views of our members to the various government departments that we deal with, as well as working with organisations such as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) to make sure that all parties negotiating the post-Brexit landscape are fully aware of the potential challenges for which they will need to find solutions.”

From conversations with some of the industry’s big hitters we have ascertained that the government has been actively seeking advisers who are well versed in international trade, the sort of depth of knowledge which comes only with practical, long term experience. Those of us who remember the days before the common market recoil in horror at the complexity of the carnets and similar fiendishly complex documents required to navigate various European customs points.

Nobody can envisage a return to such times after forty four years of comparative harmony, and indeed there normally would be no logical reason why the UK should be concerned, the trade deficit with Europe should ensure that free trade appeals more to those in the EU than in Britain. Unfortunately logic is likely to play little part in the forthcoming negotiations. As Marine Le Pen has stated, an easy exit for Britain might well mean a domino effect leading to the potential collapse of the union.

An impartial observer in the coming years (nothing gets done quickly in Brussels or Strasbourg) might view the proceedings with an amused interest. For those involved in doing a deal covering trade, immigration and economics with the unsympathetic bureaucratic monster which is the EU, the emotions are likely to be a little more impassioned.