The Freight Transport Association has raised concerns about post-Brexit cross-border trade.

Brexit will have far-reaching consequences for the whole of the UK and Europe, but the road haulage industry is on the sharp end of many of the likely changes.

This has led the Freight Transport Association (FTA) to raise concerns about the prospect of problems that will impact cross border trade and have negative impacts on the industry and the members it represents.

What are the FTA’s concerns?

The FTA is concerned about the preparedness of UK industry and Government to adapt to the inevitable changes that will occur as a result of the current Brexit process.

Depending on how we leave the EU, the UK’s exit will affect several key areas:

  • important changes in terms of customs procedures and other border formalities
  • changes to regulatory regimes
  • changes to transport law
  • the impact of these changes on procurement and logistics choices across Europe
  • the impact of these changes on delivery lead times for EU-UK trade
  • access to skills for UK companies (in an industry already suffering a skills shortage)
  • potential for new opportunities in terms of global trade to and from the UK

Furthermore, the uncertainty about future arrangements makes it very hard for any business to address these challenges.

Why are these challenges arising?

One of the “red lines” laid down by UK Prime Minister Theresa May in January 2017 was her desire to withdraw the UK from the EU Single Market and Customs Union when the UK leaves the European Union.

Hard-line Brexiteers in the Conservative Party are arguing that rather than pursuing a less disruptive and closer relationship with the EU, the UK should seek a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between Britain and the EU as well as a new customs agreement.

The FTA has pointed out: “If neither of these new trading arrangements are in place when the UK leaves the EU then businesses will face trade barriers including tariffs (customs duties) and non-tariff barriers such as the need to make customs declarations; the need to demonstrate compliance with EU trade rules; and to provide details of how goods are being transported to border authorities.”

It says that its members have serious concerns that these non-tariff barriers will cause serious disruption to business as usual, including “giving rise to delays on busy ro-ro trade routes, particularly Dover-Calais, where delays of even a few more minutes per HGV would create major delays and threaten supply chains. It is vital to introduce efficient, fast, border controls that facilitate both import and export.”

Given the EU has repeatedly said that any Free Trade Agreement or new customs agreement between the UK and the EU will require the UK to ratify the withdrawal agreement first, at the current time it looks extremely likely we will all be facing these delays and disruption.

How do you plan for the unknown?

The continued lack of clarity about exit arrangements or post-Brexit settlements makes it very difficult for businesses of all kinds to plan – not only the haulage industry.

Same Day Couriers Direct understands that this creates a greater onus on our industry to respond. Our sector has a huge role to play in supporting the changes and contingency plans being put in place by our customers to mitigate the risks arising from Brexit uncertainty.

Of course, business is used to putting plans in place to address future change – but usually with years of advance notice. The lack of agreement in UK domestic politics means that major change could happen with very little notice.

Business knows that planning for unknown outcomes is possible – but it is all about risk mitigation, and it can be very expensive, unnecessary and ineffective.

The UK Government’s decision to postpone Brexit, and the EU’s subsequent agreement of a delay to the UK’s exit date, means that the uncertainty is set to continue.

What is the FTA doing to raise awareness about potential problems?

The FTA has launched two campaigns: first, a campaign to keep Britain trading and, second, a campaign to offer advice to companies such as Same Day Couriers Direct around No-Deal Brexit help.

The FTA has identified eight priorities as part of its “Keep Britain Trading” campaign:

  • urgent confirmation of the terms and duration of the transition/implementation period
  • frictionless trading arrangements during the transition/implementation period
  • continued access for UK companies to the benefits of EU agreements with third countries throughout the transition period
  • urgent clarification regarding the UK’s customs classification system, duty rates and VAT arrangements to be used after Brexit in the absence of an agreement
  • arrangements ensuring that conformity, sanitary and phytosanitary checks can take place at the point of production rather than at the border
  • continued unrestricted numbers of vehicles able to cross the UK-EU border
  • continued recognition of vocational driving licences and qualifications, such as Driver Certificate of Professional Competence
  • ability to retain EU workers currently employed by the UK logistics sector and continued access to EU logistics workers employed in the UK on a seasonal basis, but not permanent residents in the UK to cope with peak demand

Most urgently, the trade association is emphasising the need for a two-year transition period for businesses to plan and manage any change.

Has the FTA offered any solutions to road hauliers?

The FTA’s No-Deal Brexit help is focused on several aspects that are key to the haulage industry:

  • drivers, including Driver CPC, insurance, passport/immigration requirements
  • vehicles: ECMT permits, bilateral and multilateral permits, EU27 concessions on permits
  • cross-border trade, including safety and security declarations, EORI and transit
  • the island of Ireland, especially cross-border trade
  • UK-EU customs
  • EU-UK customs
  • traffic management (UK vehicle queuing arrangements at Dover, Folkestone, Portsmouth, South Wales ports and Holyhead, etc. as well as continental vehicle queuing arrangements)
  • personnel issues, including for existing EU employees, seasonal EU27 workers, frontier workers, future EU worker recruitment, apprenticeship funding repurposing, and UK nationals in EU
  • rail and air links, customs checks and clearance and integration with ro-ro services

In the meantime, the haulage industry must respond to the changing plans and contingency arrangements of other affected businesses. Same Day Couriers Direct stands ready to help.

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