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Budget short on Brexit detail, says BIFA

[ October 30, 2018   //   ]

BIFA said that whilst it welcomes some of the announcements in the Budget on 29 October, it was all overshadowed by the ongoing uncertainty over the UK’s exit from the EU.
Director general Robert Keen commented: “Whilst the investment in road infrastructure might make a difference to our members, we should not forget that back in November 2015, the Government announced that funding would be provided for the largest road investment programme since the 1970s.
“I am not sure that the country’s network of A roads and motorways has become any less congested since that announcement.”
He hoped that infrastructure investment “will cease to be just talk and we will see some spades in the ground.”
BIFA members would also welcome the freeze in fuel duty, but would have preferred to see an outright cut, the introduction of an essential user rebate and some form of fuel duty stabilisation mechanism.”
BIFA is concerned by Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s assertion that the spending commitments outlined in yesterday budget statement would not be affected in the event of a no-deal, hard Brexit. Keen added: “If that is the case, why would Mr Hammond feel the need to also state that his Spring statement might need to be upgraded to a new hard-Brexit budget?
“Speaking on behalf of BIFA’s members, which facilitate much of the movement of the UK’s visible exports and imports, we believe that any new tariffs and delays that could result from a no-deal Brexit would make today’s announcements unsustainable.”
BIFA members remain concerned about the potential impact on infrastructure plans, labour shortages and border delays of a no-deal Brexit, and want to see much more progress with the agreement on several key processes if a frictionless border is to be achieved.
“Our members want to see the government achieve an agreement on trade and customs as an urgent priority. That will be of much greater importance to the work of our members than anything announced in yesterday’s budget.”
Baxter Freight chairman Ian Baxter (pictured) commented:What we have learned from the Chancellor’s Budget announcement is that he really isn’t planning on a no deal Brexit which may be the biggest thing to cheer of all his announcements. Nor does the Government have an adequate plan to deal with the directly foreseeable consequences of leaving the Customs Union whether in March or at the end of a transition period.”

Baxter said that either scenario would have serious consequences and: “If the Government believes there is any real prospect of either happening then we will need a plan to deal with them.”

A ‘no deal’ Brexit this would require a completely new Budget announcement and economic forecast from the Government and the £500m no deal funding, £2.2billion Brexit funding or £15 billion Brexit contingency announced on 29 October “would not touch the sides of the problem”.

As well as emergency funding for HMRC’s customs capacity support would be needed for business which might face shutdowns (at least temporarily) of huge production lines and laying off staff from the likes of Nissan, Honda, Toyota and Jaguar Land Rover as well as significant extra costs of doing their day-to-day business.

Baxter added: “Of course, the obvious reason the Chancellor hasn’t revealed the true cost of a ‘no deal’ Brexit to the UK is that letting the EU know this truth wouldn’t help our negotiating position at this crucial stage. Regardless of the type of deal negotiated, we need to be prepared for all Brexit eventualities.

“In practical terms, this means training more customs officers and building up HMRC’s IT capacity and physical infrastructure at the UK’s borders. So, whilst the final Brexit outcome is unclear, we are yet to see a tangible commitment to urgent investment in these areas. We can only hope the Government ends up getting a deal which makes such preparations unnecessary.”

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