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Brexit– still more questions than answers – updated

[ December 13, 2019   //   ]

UK Major Ports Group chief executive Tim Morris says he is looking forward to working “constructively and urgently” with the new Government following the general election on 12 December. However, “ there is now a tremendous amount of work to do both in terms of making the ‘one region two systems’ arrangements for Northern Ireland work and on the vital practical detail of the future relationship with EU.”

He added: “Fundamentally the UK’s ports offer the opportunity to unleash the potential of our Coastal Powerhouse – boosting post-Brexit capability to trade with the world, growing jobs and prosperity in coastal communities and enabling a more sustainable, net zero UK. The ports are ready and ambitious to do their bit. We look forward to working with the Government and politicians of all parties so they can effectively play their part in policy areas like connectivity, planning reform, sustainability, skills and trade.”

Managing director of supply chain consultancy SCALA John Perry, added that many of the details of Brexit remained undecided, particularly the implications of Boris Johnson’s Northern Ireland protocol.

He said: “Border controls and customs processes for goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland are yet to be defined, and there are worries that the proposed arrangements as currently constructed will cause considerable friction.

“As a result, doubts have also been raised over the feasibility of implementing the protocol Johnson’s self-imposed December 2020 deadline.”

He urged businesses to review their operations including registering for HMRC’s Transitional Simplified Procedures if they had not already done so. This will enable them to import goods into the UK without make a full customs declaration in advance, and also postpone paying duties and VAT.

They should also check Incoterms and the relevant temporary product and tariff codes and customs processes that may come into force.

The Freight Transport Association, while welcoming the clarity and direction that the General Election result provided warned that, without the passing of the Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament, there is still the risk of a No Deal departure from the EU on 31 January 2020.

Assuming the Prime Minister follows through on his commitment that he will “get Brexit done” and achieves ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement by Parliament, FTA’s head of European policy, Pauline Bastidon, said the focus for government should then shift to detail of the future trading arrangements between the UK and EU:

“Big questions about our future trading arrangements with Europe are yet to be answered, and must be an urgent priority for negotiations if UK PLC is to continue trading effectively,” she said.

“Despite repeated requests of the previous government, FTA still has not received responses from government on a number of key areas which currently enable the smooth passage of goods and services across the UK’s borders. While the transition period has already been reduced to less than a year, it is vital that the logistics industry understands the new rules and procedures it will need to implement after Brexit, and critically, has time to plan and adapt. We must not reach another cliff edge at the end of the transition period where key trading arrangements are simply not known.”

FTA wants final confirmation of the arrangements for imports and exports between the UK and Europe, agreement on the Irish border, including the potential for checks and where and how these are to be  and the employment of EU nationals . The loss of the 343,000 EU nationals working in British logistics firms could see vehicle movements and the supply chain as a whole come to a standstill, FTA warns.

“No one wants to see long border delays for goods and services,” says Ms Bastidon, “which could cause critical problems in the supply chain for perishable items, critical medicines and other time sensitive goods.  But this is exactly what will happen if the Industry does not get time to plan for the introduction of new rules and procedures. Much of the UK’s manufacturing industry relies on deliveries arriving from the EU in a very limited window of time, so it is imperative that nothing hinders the movement of these vehicles if catastrophic knock on effects are not to be felt throughout the country’s industry.”

Director general of the British International Freight Association (BIFA) Robert Keen, said he would be looking for the new government to deliver on its promises in regards to Brexit, the withdrawal agreement with the EU, and any future trade deal.
“The mantra of the new government has been ‘Get Brexit Done’ but that will only have any real meaning for BIFA members if the actual details of our future relationship with the EU are clear.
“That means providing them with assurances that they won’t face another no deal cliff-edge next year, nor a messy and disorderly exit from the EU.
“They are also looking for the new government to push ahead with improvements to transport infrastructure, including the thorny issue of the expansion of capacity at Heathrow.
“In regards to a future trade agreement with the EU, I would urge the new government to seek and commit to a workable adjustment period once the details are revealed about the changes our members might face in regards to the movement of freight across borders. Now is not the time for arbitrary negotiating deadlines.”

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