Has the recent chaos affected our trade?
The nightmare before Brexit
This month, we saw and heard the news of France closing its borders to the UK for 48 hours. With the closure ensued chaos in Dover at the ‘Gateway to Europe’ and showed hundreds of heavy load lorries stacked up on the M20 motorway, the route into the port.
Police intervention meant blocked access, as lorry drivers were left helpless and angry on the run-up to Christmas. Lorry drivers reported there was a lack of toilet facilities, food, and drivers were pictured napping in their lorries or huddling under shelters, unknown to when they were going to return home or if they would be spending Christmas in their lorries. The Guardian captures the chaotic scenes. The frustration was summed up by Romanian lorry driver Florian Catana in his desperation to get back home to his family. He told the BBC: “We are tired, we are disappointed and we are scared.”.
The borders were closed because of the fear of new strain of the coronavirus spread and drivers were told they could only pass through if they had a negative COVID test, but could this have been a pre-Brexit trial or even Macron attempting to apply pressure in Brexit negotiations?
Whatever the reasons, political or otherwise, it has left a large number of businesses even more worried about what the future may hold. This event has left a loss of confidence for the coming new year and beyond for many people. Ports chaos ‘bad for trust and post-Brexit trade’ Ian Wright, Chief Executive of the Food and Drink Federation: “UK exporters wanted to make sure foreign firms could rely on their supply chains after 1 January.” He continued “We have just proved that you can’t trust British products and that is really unhelpful”.
Back on the road
BBC spoke to a lorry driver named Cameron Caesar. Cameron had only just recently begun a full-time job as a lorry driver and this was his first time trying to cross the Dover border as the chaos took place and had to be redirected. Here is what Cameron had to say about the effects.
“It was totally unexpected,” “It has put a lot of miles on the clock and there are a lot of extra costs involved. It is an exceptional situation but it puts the prices up quite a bit for the consumer”.
Has it affected us already?
Due to this recent event, many European freight forwarders are now rejecting contracts that involve taking goods into the UK, even already signed contracts. There are too many fears that the border shutting in Dover could be replayed at any time and they will not be able to return home. Transporeon, a German software company that monitors real-time data on freight traffic and rates for more than 100,000 logistics service providers, said a “dramatic number” of freight forwarders had declined to take cargo into the UK in the past fortnight, despite having already agreed contracts. Brexit Border Chaos Forces Truckers to Shun U.K. Deliveries.
Some logistic companies have put a pause on groupage loads to EU Countries. This is simply due to the fact if one item in the truck has not got the correct paperwork the rest of the truck and goods is also held back, resulting in time delays and holdups.
This will have the most harm on small and mid-size businesses that rely on groupage loads due to not being financially able to send items individually. Fresh seafood may be the worst affected by this but the full impact won’t be known until the New Year and Brexit is in place.
What does the future hold?
Many believe the new Brexit deal is likely to cause more challenges in the future and bring time delays as new customs inspections and more paperwork come into play. Failing to show the new paperwork or requirements will result in a fine of up to £300. Brexit: Port ‘chaos’ warning over customs systems.
On a positive note
Despite the cause for concern and lack of confidence in some parts, a port spokesperson from the Dover port has said, “Traffic will continue to flow smoothly through the port after the Brexit transition”.
Let’s hold onto this optimism as it offers a glimpse of hope for lorry drivers as they adapt to the new paperwork and requirements. Business will resume even if it is ‘business as unusual’.