Please note – We have left our Brexit section from the last 3 years in place. There’s a degree of historic interest and much is still relevant.
Rishi Sunak is honest about our position in the Guardian’s interview but we don’t know if his last comment will prove correct. Hope and opportunity was the vote leave message and is now being reapplied to recovery from Covid-19.
Brexit and the pandemic are intertwined. The worst recession ever recorded saw Britain’s GDP fall by 20% in the second quarter of 2020, the highest of any G7 nation and twice the hit seen in the US.
Neither has finalising Brexit gone well during the pandemic. The EU say Britain is being unrealistic, the UK focus on our readiness to walk away from the table, including a late move to shorten the time frame of negotiations.
In reality, both sides wish to avoid the disruption of no deal, although the cost would be higher for the UK. EU losses will be spread across nations to a fair degree, ours all fall on one nation.
Every business sector will be involved, with most impacted by freight and logistics changes, an area we should focus on.
Cross Channel Freight
The UK is leaving the single market, which controls operational and product standards, also leaving the customs union, the EU’s tax free zone.
Without a comprehensive agreement, we could see full border checks and new tariffs on goods. The supply of services will be affected by market access, regulatory requirements and restrictions on the movement of people.
Delays at ports are likely, which will harm the freight industry as well as their clients. A reduced ability to recruit EU personnel will not help the sector, or hindered access to EU based business services.
There are still details to iron out, such as whose regulations British drivers will follow on driving time and rest periods when in Europe. Part of the lack of clarity which freight industry bodies have raised.
In early September, they wrote a joint letter to ministers, requesting urgent consultation. Concerns include ineffective customs software and systems, a general lack of readiness, or understanding of real world requirements.
Moving Into 2021
Beyond specific areas, the core obstacle to a deal is the UK’s reticence to follow regulatory standards set in Brussels. Doing so is perceived as loss of sovereignty, even though most trade deals involve this to a degree.
The days of constant discussion on the backstop may have dimmed but the Irish border remains an issue. A country which could in any event be more affected by Brexit than most, with their high level of UK trade.
We must hope that the government keep in mind the freight sector’s role in our economy. A wish for freedom to push (and subsidise) the new, high tech economy is understandable but our industry already contributes more than most.
Real world trade with and transport to, or from Europe are vital to us maintaining a competitive economy, more than ever following the pandemic. If transport costs notably erode margins, then Brexit has failed.
The entire freight industry stands ready to move forward on behalf of themselves and their customers. Our hope is that the government recognises the value of the cross channel supply chain and give this priority.