Freight News, Logistics, Business

Aussie rules for EU-UK trade?

[ February 27, 2020   //   ]

The Government warned that it could adopt an Australian-style relationship with the EU in its approach to the EU trade negotiations, published on 27 February.
It said that while it will work hard to agree a Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), “if it is not possible to negotiate a satisfactory outcome, then the trading relationship with the EU will rest on the 2019 Withdrawal Agreement and will look similar to Australia’s.”
It also repeated Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s earlier stipulation that the Government will not extend the transition period provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement. It said this leaves “a limited, but sufficient, time for the UK and the EU to reach agreement” with a number of negotiating rounds between now and the June high-level meeting foreseen in the Political Declaration.
The Government hopes that, by that point, the broad outline of an agreement would be clear and be capable of being rapidly finalised by September.
However: “If that does not seem to be the case at the June meeting, the Government will need to decide whether the UK’s attention should move away from negotiations and focus solely on continuing domestic preparations to exit the transition period in an orderly fashion. In so doing, it will be necessary to take into account in particular whether good progress has been possible on the least controversial areas of the negotiations, and whether the various autonomous processes on both sides are proceeding on a technical basis according to agreed deadlines.”
But British Ports Association chief executive, Richard Ballantyne warned: “We are concerned that the UK’s approach to negotiations with the European Union lacks ambition when it comes to non-tariff barriers and does not fully appreciate the role that frictionless trade has played in supporting advanced and critical supply chains. We must ensure importers and exporters continue to trade and are not prevented from dealing with important markets. Also it goes without saying clock is ticking and the logistics sector now needs to know exactly what to prepare for.”

FTA policy director, Elizabeth de Jong, said that the government’s negotiating mandate with the EU was still missing elements relating to the logistics sector. FTA has made repeated requests of the UK government to prioritise the needs of the industry in its negotiations or risk a devastating effect on the UK’s highly interconnected supply chain – but these concerns seem to have been overlooked.

Dhe added: “Elements of the government’s approach do give us hope, for instance the commitment towards no tariffs and quotas and some degree of trade facilitation to help industry now that frictionless trade is no longer a political objective. FTA will continue to engage with Government to ensure that maximum use is made of these facilitations, both through the negotiations and at UK level. However, we would like to see more ambition for road, aviation and rail transport, to allow operators on both sides to continue serving UK-EU trade routes in a flexible way and to maintain levels of service for the sector’s customers in business and industry.”