FTA, the only business group that represents all of the logistics industry, is calling on the government to answer critical questions about our future trading arrangements with the EU after the Brexit transition period. This follows comments at the weekend from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid, suggesting a hardening in the government’s approach to Brexit, and that industry has had more than enough time to prepare.
Elizabeth de Jong, Director of Policy at FTA comments: “Whilst the logistics industry welcomes the clarity in direction that the new government brings, it is not helpful to tell businesses they have already had three years to prepare. The most important question is: prepare for what exactly? There are a number of critical questions about the way goods will move across borders between the UK and the EU, and importantly the different arrangements that will need to be put in place between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is just not possible for logistics businesses to prepare adequately without these critical operational details.”
Whilst discussions regarding the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU have been happening since the referendum in 2016, government policy up until last weekend has focussed on making trading arrangements as frictionless as possible. Even last week, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was talking about negotiating a favourable trade deal, implying soft borders at the end of the transition period.
Ms de Jong continues: “Whilst there is still time for industry to prepare for increased levels of friction at borders, it is essential that the logistics sector is fully involved in the early design and testing of new procedures. As always, FTA is ready and willing to help, but the detail is really important; we need months not minutes to get ready for the changes.”
FTA has already been in contact with the new administration with a list of vital questions that urgently need answering, so that the planning and testing can begin, as well as critical recommendations for 2020. These cover issues including the exact processes and types of formalities required for goods moving across the borders, and the new systems, accreditations and training needed to make this happen successfully.
Ms de Jong continues: “Knowing there will be customs formalities and regulatory divergence is not enough: FTA members need to know exactly what this will mean and how new requirements will be enforced, particularly on the UK side. They need to know what simplifications, accreditation schemes and trade facilitation measures the UK government envisages, if any, and whether standards, qualifications and accreditations will be recognised. FTA members also need clarity on the new arrangements for transport. As of today, there has been no response or clarification on the detail behind these critical issues.”
Ms de Jong concludes: “The logistics industry is vital to Keep Britain Trading, and is fully committed to making a success of any new rules. But without time for effective planning and testing, delays at the border and other interruptions to the supply chain are very likely to have a critical impact on the availability of time-sensitive goods, such as fresh food and medicines, and a knock on effect on the productivity and profitability of UK PLC. Mr Javid also acknowledged at the weekend that businesses ‘didn’t know the exact terms’ under which they would be required to operate. It is clear that for the logistics industry, and the effective movement of goods across borders, some of that detail is fundamental to making Brexit a success, and we look forward to supporting the government as soon as possible in preparing for those specific and significant changes.”
Efficient logistics is vital to keep the UK trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods. With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc. A champion and challenger, FTA speaks to government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers.