Forwarding, Freight News, Logistics

Brexit – it’s only the end of the beginning, says UKWA boss

[ November 12, 2019   //   ]

Current PM Boris Johnson may be promising to ‘Get Brexit Done’ during the election campaign but the idea that the Withdrawal Agreement would be the end of the process is deeply misleading, says UK Warehousing Association (UKWA) chief executive, Peter Ward.

He says: “Getting Brexit done implies an end point, a drawing of a line under a long and painful process. In some ways this couldn’t be further from the truth. What it really means is ratifying an agreement which will signify the beginning of intensive and extensive negotiations to implement wide-ranging changes that could well take years to complete. In short, this is the start and not the end of Brexit.”

The Withdrawal Agreement tells little about the future relationship between UK and the European Union. “Not until we know the nature and timing of that future relationship – and the processes for managing it – will the Business world have the much-needed forward certainty it craves,” said Ward.

He also warned: “The latest pledge from the Prime Minister that the Transition Period will under no circumstances be extended beyond December 2020 means the risk remains of crashing out onto WTO terms in little over 12 months.”

UKWA has consistently warned of likely interruption to supply chains, whatever the outcome of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. It estimates that withdrawal from the EU and particularly the Customs Union will result in 200 million additional customs declarations, with inspections at the border of plant, animal and forest products.

Boris plan is not inevitable, says Tudor boss

Meanwhile, Adam Johnson, director of Leeds-based Tudor International Freight, said that traders should not regard the eventual implementation of Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans as inevitable.

He said the revised withdrawal deal the Prime Minister agreed with the EU last month proposed Britain left both the bloc’s Single Market and Customs Union at the end of the envisaged post-Brexit transition period, currently set for December 2020. However, it was clearly intended to preface a mere bare bones free-trade agreement with the EU – which was unlikely to have been agreed by that point – and which could see new barriers erected for British businesses trading with organisations in Northern Ireland, for example.

He said: “These plans would therefore make life for Britain’s EU traders much more costly and complex than at present, with the goods they send and receive being subject to increased documentation and checks, taking longer to reach destinations and costing more.”

Adam Johnson said, however, it was by no means guaranteed MPs would back the Conservatives’ plans following the General Election on 12 December, despite the party currently enjoying a healthy lead in most opinion polls.

He said: “This General Election will be the third in little more than four years and voters sometimes punish leaders who drag them to the polls unnecessarily, which they may be even more inclined to do when the contest takes place in the depths of winter.

“Loyalty among electors is also much more fluid than it was, with many voters now identifying more strongly as Remainers or Leavers than supporters of one party and four parties currently achieving double-figure percentages in most opinion polls.”

He concluded: “For all these reasons, Britain’s EU traders shouldn’t regard implementation of the current draft withdrawal deal as a foregone conclusion. Other options, including a renegotiation of the agreement, a confirmatory referendum, and even Brexit being cancelled altogether, currently remain very much in play.”