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Forwarders unprepared for Brexit changes, says BIFA

[ September 14, 2020   //   ]

Most respondents to a survey by the British International Freight Association (BIFA) said they had significant reservations over whether they will have the capacity to handle major changes to the UK’s trading relationship at the start of 2021, such as new customs documentation and procedures.

BIFA director Robert Keen says he believes that the results clearly demonstrates that much greater clarity is needed on government plans for the border.

He said: “The results indicate that the recent publication of the Border Operating Model and Moving Goods Under the Northern Ireland Protocol have not greatly assisted members’ understanding of procedures regarding imports and exports between the EU and UK, and GB and Northern Ireland, respectively.”

In a general question on their understanding of the Government’s plans for the border after the end of the Transition period, more than half of the respondents said that they either had no knowledge, or what knowledge they do have needs improving.

In regards to the Border Operating Model, whilst 70% of respondents said they understand the Customs procedures required to import goods into the UK from the EU at the end of the transition period; less than half said that was the case in regards to safety and security declarations. This was also the case with respondents that are involved in the import of live animals, and/or products of animal origin; as well as fresh fruit and vegetables.

The results were broadly similar for procedures to be followed for export movements from the UK to EU, although 79% said they had no understanding of import procedures in individual EU Member States regarding export movements from the UK to EU.

Asked whether they understand the correct processes relating to trade between mainland GB and NI under the Northern Ireland Protocol, the overwhelming majority said they did not understand the Customs procedures, nor the safety and security declarations that will be required.

More than half of respondents said they had no familiarity with the Goods Vehicle Management System (GVMS); whilst more than two thirds said the same about the Smart Freight Service and the Trader Support Service for Northern Ireland.

Keen said that in a similar survey in May, half the respondents felt they would not have sufficient staff to undertake the additional Customs-related work that will be required from January 1st 2021, which had increased to 64% in the latest survey, reflecting the 69% of respondents in the latest survey who said the Covid-19 pandemic had affected their ability to prepare for the end of the transition period.”

BIFA is concerned that over 50% of respondents said they have not received direct communication from government on EU Exit/end of Transition period, and of those that had, less than 40% found it clear and accurate.

However, the overwhelming majority of respondents (88%) said that they were aware of the Government’s Customs Intermediary Grant Scheme to assist with training, new IT and recruitment costs’ whilst 72% said they have already made use of the scheme, or intend to do so.

Keen adds: “Our previous survey found that the majority of respondents believe that an extension to the transition period was desirable, if no trade deal is agreed by December 31st 2020 and UK trade with the EU is conducted on WTO lines.

“Whilst Government chose to ignore the appeal for an extension that we made to them, based on that finding, we know that it is capable of listening to advice from business.

“We hope that they will be willing to listen to the significant reservations that have been expressed by the companies that are on the front line in the management of the UK’s visible imports and exports, including 80% or more of Customs entries, in regards to their preparedness for the end of the transition period.”

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