From the industrial supply chain, to key items for consumers, UK – EU transport links are vital. The freight and logistics sector is however becoming more concerned about arrangements after January 1st 2021.
At the beginning of September, a group of trade bodies, including the Road Haulage Association and British International Freight Association, wrote a joint letter to government. This requested an urgent meeting with ministers.
The Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove heads the list, as he is responsible for Brexit delivery. Offering input to the Chancellor and Transport Minister is equally important in seeing progress made.
At present, there seems little cross channel balance. The UK government are proposing phased change over a 6 month period for imports, the EU state that full border procedures will be required from day one.
More importantly, practical arrangements to cope with the changes appear to be out of sync with Brexit needs and time scale.
Real World Requirements
Leaving the EU will bring a requirement for over 200 million extra customs declarations each year. They will apply to thousands of vehicles crossing the channel each day and to suppliers ranging from individuals, to corporate bodies.
The UK has been trading freely with the EU for half a century, there is no current experience of doing otherwise. Of course we trade with other countries but not with the same geographic immediacy, or scale.
Over 40% of UK exports and 50% of imports are EU related, almost £700 billion worth of goods. We also import a complex mix of items direct from the EU and from non-EU countries, under the terms of trade deals negotiated by the EU.
Significant disruption to the supply chain appears likely, unless well understood, joined up systems are in place by January.
Developments To Date
Brexit negotiations could hardly be said to be progressing. Both sides continue to warn of no deal and whilst political brinkmanship is part of this, the chances of a truly effective deal are diminishing.
Online facilities and new software have been developed but nobody knows how well they will function. Integrating them into working practice takes time and they do not seem to be parts of a unified system.
Along with evident duplication, this may sound reminiscent of other government IT systems which have caused delays, or ended up in the bin.
There is a genuine feeling across the freight sector that the requirements for linking all parties together have not been understood. When the smooth flow of data and information is critical to logistical management, or planning.
An eleventh hour declaration of an even partial Brexit deal may suit political wishes but does not suit the freight industry. The best way the government can move forward is to listen to and understand those involved.
Systems need to be refined, accessible and effective. Time should be allowed for those working in the sector to take on board new procedures, train staff, inform their customers of best practice.
The government response of “further details in due course” is past a rational sell by date and needs to be swapped for urgent action. Long term monitoring of Brexit shows that solutions have always been feasible.
Our sector remains willing to share knowledge and help government to cope with a notable challenge. We are also ready to serve our customers in every way possible, all the better if that is part of a positive path.