The government’s technical notices for a No Deal Brexit released today will create an array of red tape and paperwork, and yet still do not provide answers to the key questions being asked by those responsible for moving the UK’s goods and services between the UK and Europe, according to FTA, the leading business group. Speaking after the release of the documentation today by the government’s Department for Exiting the EU, Pauline Bastidon FTA’s Head of European Policy, urged negotiators to continue to press for a deal:
“While it is encouraging to finally see some of the government’s plans for a No Deal Brexit, which provide helpful clarifications in some areas, there are still key processes to be agreed if the UK logistics sector and “just in time” economy is to be protected,” says Ms Bastidon. “The fact that the UK driving licence would only be accepted in partnership with an international driving permit would create delays and confusion for many operators, some of whom may not even be aware that they would require additional paperwork. Of real concern is that these permits would not be available to purchase at every post office, (the papers suggest 2,500 outlets, rather than the full network), and will not be on sale until 1 February, leaving operators precious little time to undertake the necessary administration ahead of Brexit day itself.
“No detail has yet been provided on the issue of whether permits will be required by vehicles travelling to and from Europe – and time is marching on. At this point, we expect only 1,224 permits to be made available to UK hauliers every year if they wish to travel to the European Union – that number pales into insignificance when you consider that the Port of Dover can handle up to 10,000 vehicle movements each day. Without a significant improvement in the planned number of accepted permits for HGVs travelling across the border, there is a very real threat to the integrity of the UK’s supply chain, and delays and product shortages could be a reality while alternative suppliers are sourced and arranged.
“Unavoidable queues would quickly build up as hauliers wait for permits to be returned to the UK, and delays would be inevitable. Hauliers will not be able to travel without the requisite documentation, so this must be front and centre for negotiations when they resume, while hauliers should prepare for additional levels of red tape and administrative tasks, and a learning period as they adapt to the new regimes.”
In addition to the need for an agreement on the number of road permits available to UK operators, there is still no clarification on how air freight will be able to move into and out of the UK without a new access agreement – an issue which many people are now well aware of. But, as Ms Bastidon continues, the road freight issue has not yet become a priority for those responsible for the negotiations on both sides of the Channel, and without agreements with the EU as a whole, or individual countries, there could still be major delays to trade:
“Efforts to establish bilateral agreements on permits could be a solution for UK business, and FTA welcomes the government’s proposal to pursue these. However, these would still impose unwelcome burdens and cost on British hauliers seeking to acquire the necessary permits and there is no reassurance in the No Deal papers that there would be sufficient to cover all transport moving to and fro across the UK’s borders. There is still a large amount to do to keep Britain trading efficiently with its biggest customer, the EU and to suggest that these are processes which can be implemented swiftly would be to ignore the complexity of a huge administrative task, which is now being placed on the UK’s freight industry.
“The UK’s logistics sector is the beating heart of the economy, and one on which most businesses rely for goods, services, raw materials and ingredients. Without secure, safe and timely logistics movements between the UK and the EU, on which many schools, hospitals, shops and other businesses have come to rely, they will find it difficult to source goods in the short to medium term, while new trading arrangements are confirmed. That would create the very real risk of shortages and empty shelves. The priority now must be to secure a new UK/EU road transport agreement – an even more urgent priority than a trade deal. Without permits there will be no trucks – and without them, no trade. No one voted for that outcome.”
Efficient logistics is vital to keep Britain 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.