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Brace! Brace! warns BIFA

[ January 16, 2019   //   ]

Brace! Brace! warns BIFA
BIFA director general Robert Keen says that Parliament’s resounding rejection of Theresa May’s Brexit deal means that freight forwarders should prepare for a ‘hard Brexit’. “Speculating about any other outcome is inadvisable until UK Government provides us with clear guidelines,” he adds.
Freight forwarders are though “ready to clear up the mess left by politicians”, he believes, saying: “With just a couple of months to go before the exit date, the rejection of the deal leads BIFA to recommend that our members, which are the companies that handle the processing of most of the UK’s visible trade, to prepare on the basis that there will be a hard Brexit.
“A hard deal may well be very disruptive and damaging for the UK economy as a whole, but freight forwarders – many of whom are Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) accredited – will play a key role in tidying up the mess left by the politicians by ensuring UK importers and exporters can continue trading without undue disruption with the rest of Europe after 29 March.”
BIFA still believes however that that a disorderly Brexit would be the worse outcome, as it is likely to increase trade barriers and impose significant restrictions on the exchange of goods between the EU and the UK.
Keen adds: “Whilst BIFA’s executive management has engaged with various government departments over the last two years in regards to issues that affect the movement of visible trade post 29 March, our members have also been discussing the possible impacts with their clients.
“Large and small, BIFA members have taken actions to review all options to overcome the disorder that a no-deal Brexit could bring to international trade in order to define sustainable solutions as the set of Brexit conditions becomes clearer.
“BIFA will be renewing our appeals to the responsible bodies in London and Brussels to do the utmost to prevent this scenario. As far as we are concerned, our members are focussed on ensuring the ongoing efficient flow of freight for our customers.
“One thing is certain, our members are ready, willing and able, to clear up the mess that has been left by politicians.”
The International Road Transport Union (IRU) said it was deeply concerned about the effects of a no-deal Brexit on cross-Channel commercial road freight and passenger. Matthias Maedge, leading IRU’s EU-related work, said: “A no-deal Brexit should not have been an option, but it is now close to being a fact.”
Kuehne + Nagel chief executive Dr Detlef Trefzger, also said that “a disorderly Brexit is the worst solution. It will impose massive restrictions on the exchange of goods between the European Union and the UK. We appeal to the responsible bodies in London and Brussels to do the utmost to prevent this scenario.”
Nevertheless: “The House of Commons has made a historic decision which we need to respect. Kuehne + Nagel is committed to global free trade in principle which ensures prosperity for everyone. So from our perspective, ‘No Brexit’ would be the preferred solution, since any form of Brexit is bound to increase trade barriers.”
The forwarder has taken steps to secure capacity on trade routes with Europe outside of the Kent corridor both by sea and air and has started to recruit additional customs clerks.
Managing director of the Scala supply chain consultancy, John Perry commented: “Until recently, a no-deal Brexit was seen as such a remote possibility that many businesses are only just starting to put contingency plans in place. However, whether a deal is agreed or not, there is a strong possibility that Brexit will cause months of severe disruption to UK/EU cross-border movements that businesses should be preparing themselves for.
“In the last few days we’ve heard mounting reports of companies that have begun stockpiling goods and raw materials, including Tesco and Marks & Spencer, in an effort to minimise the impact of this possible disruption. While this will certainly buy them some time, it is only a short-term solution.
“In addition to stockpiling, businesses should be urgently reviewing their supply chains to identify any major risk areas and implement risk-reduction strategies. Affected organisations should also consider applying to become an Authorised Economic Operator, as it’s widely agreed that achieving AEO status is likely to be one of the most effective mitigating factors in any Brexit situation.”
He said that even if Article 50 is revoked, as many are hoping it will be, this will still have been an extremely valuable exercise. “After so many years of frictionless trade, it’s clear that many of us have been delaying on these big decisions. If nothing else, the past two years have proven how precarious our situation really is. Brexit should therefore act as the catalyst businesses need to re-optimise their supply chains, ensuring they are as agile as possible and prepared for any future unforeseen events.”
Eurotunnel called on political leaders to clarify the nature of the border relationship and controls that will exist between the UK and the European Union, as soon as possible. The tunnel operator said i has been preparing for all outcomes and had adapted its infrastructure so that, with or without a deal, traffic flow through the Tunnel will be maintained.
It points out that, when the Tunnel was opened in 1994, lorries passed through only three types of check, compared to eight separate controls today. This increase in the level of controls over time has not prevented truck traffic from increasing fourfold over the same period between 1994 and 2018.
Chief executive of the British Ports Association, Richard Ballantyne, pointed out: “We have now been discussing the implications of a ‘no deal’ Brexit with Ministers and officials for more than two years and we know they fully appreciate the disruption that this would entail at certain key port gateways. Whilst plans are in place to mitigate some of the worst aspects of this, the fundamental dangers to free flowing trade remain and must be avoided if at all possible…We are now very close to exit day and many in the ports sector will be seeking guarantees that time will found for further negotiation to avoid the UK leaving the EU on unfavourable terms.”

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