Thursday, September 24, 2020

'Washout' 'Whitewash' Choose Your Own Insult for Government Brexit Response

Freight and Logistics Groups United in Criticism of Gove Reply
Shipping News Feature

UK – In our piece yesterday we gave the reaction of the British International Freight Organisation (BIFA) to the leaked letter from government replying to those from the transport community with whom it had met at a round table conference to discuss the Brexit situation last week.

With comments now in from others at the meeting after the letter was officially received by them we now have a barrage of various criticisms from all sides in a similar vein to those made by the BIFA director general. Following receipt of the letter from Michael Gove MP, detailing Government’s ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’ planning, the Road Haulage Association (RHA), the prime mover in calling for the meeting in the first place, is obviously equally disenchanted with the response.

The RHA says it was gratifying to hear Mr Gove’s opposite number, Rachel Reeves say ‘I met with the Road Haulage Association last week and they are tearing their hair out’, and it concludes the only very small light at the end of this transition period tunnel is that the subsequent debate in the Commons has made it very clear that many of Mr Gove’s colleagues on both sides of the House are equally concerned.

That however is a very dim lamp, far from the end of a very long passage, and the tone from the RHA when faced with the government statement that between 30-50% of trucks crossing the Channel won’t be ready for the new regulations coming into force on 1 January 2021, while a lack of capacity to hold unready trucks at French ports could reduce the flow of traffic across the Dover Strait to 60-80% of normal levels, is very blunt, with chief executive Richard Burnett saying:

“We already know this, it’s what we’ve been saying for many months. We know that traders and haulage operators will face new customs controls and processes and we know that if they haven’t completed the right paperwork their goods will be stopped when entering the EU.

“Mr Gove stresses that it’s essential that traders act now to get ready for the new formalities. We know for a fact that they are only too keen to be ready, but how on earth can they prepare when there is still no clarity as to what they need to do? Traders need 50,000 more customs intermediaries to handle the mountain of new paperwork after transition but government support to recruit and train those extra people is woefully inadequate, particularly as firms are trying to recover from Covid-19.

“For years we’ve been warning government that there will be delays at ports but with 70 working days to go until the end of the transition period they’re still not engaging with us to come up with the solutions. The answers to the questions that we raised in our letter to Mr Gove and subsequent round table meeting last Thursday still remain unanswered, and for the industry on which the entire nation depends for maintaining the flow of goods across borders, the future looks very bleak indeed.

“We described last week’s meeting between industry stakeholders and Mr Gove’s team as a total washout. Government’s promises that the UK will be ready for business on 1 January are just a whitewash, and right now it appears that traders and haulage operators are being left to carry the can.”

Without turning to metaphors of tunnels or rugby analogies (like the BIFA boss) Logistics UK was similarly critical of the government response with Elizabeth de Jong, Policy Director saying:

“Logistics UK has long warned government of the potential for border delays after the UK leaves the EU, and while there is still time to put mitigations in place to avoid them, it will be a huge challenge for government and industry to achieve.

”The ability of traders to complete and provide the correct paperwork will be key to ensuring the continued smooth passage of goods through the UK’s supply chain, and we are urging businesses exporting to the EU to install and understand the systems they will need to use in time for the 1 January 2021 deadline.

“However, it is also incumbent on government to ensure logistics businesses have details of, and access to, the UK’s own logistics systems, including Smart Freight and GVMS, in good time so that adequate training and testing can be carried out.

”Full working guidance on the port systems to be used in Europe, particularly in France and Ireland, must also be provided by our EU partners to minimise delays and the potential for disruption to the supply chain at a time of year when the UK depends on imported goods across a number of sectors. With so much still to do, it is vital that all parties work together to keep the flow of trade moving smoothly between the UK and EU.”

Photo: Michael Gove’s response has done little to win support from the freight community.