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‘We will pull out all the stops to keep freight moving’

[ September 12, 2019   //   ]

HMRC will prioritise keeping goods flowing across the Channel, even over securing government revue, after Brexit, FBJ has been given to understand. All stops are bing pulled out to ensure that Channel ports do not seize up after Brexit day – currently scheduled for 31 October.

The Transitional Simplified Procedures also unveiled by Government ahead of the previous Brexit deadline will still be in place and will seek to keep the bulk of customs clearance activity away from crucial ports and airports.

HMRC has also carried out a port-by-port assessment of capacity and necessary resources will be put in place if needed, said a spokesman in an off-the-record briefing.

It reassurances were given after the Government was forced by Parliament before it was prorogued on 10 September to publish the Yellowhammer report on the possible effects of Brexit on the UK. This suggested that, in a worst case scenario, trucks could be held up in queues to board ferries or shuttles for over two days.

The latest version of the Yellowhammer report was that leaving the EU without a deal could lead to shortages of some fresh foods, increased prices and disruption to trade for up to six months. It warns that trucks could have to wait for up to two days to cross the Channel.

Yellowhammer also warned that plans for a light-touch approach to checks on the Ulster/Ireland border are likely to be unsustainable in the long term, as they could lead to significant economic, legal and biosecurity risks.

Moreover, increased prices of food and fuel could lead to street protests across the country, in turn stretching Police and other resources.

Predictably, the Government played down the significance of the report, saying that it was taking steps to mitigate the worst-case situation.

However, the Freight Transport Association warned that the Yellowhammer document showed that “there is still much that could go wrong and still has to be done to keep Britain trading effectively.”

It added that many apparently trivial   details were “crucial to the successful protection and continuation of the UK’s supply chain”.  Businesses can only prepare for and implement new processes once and still need confirmation of what they are to adopt in the way of new practices

FTA says it is still very concerned by the risk to fuel supplies pointing out: “At no point in the past three years of negotiations has any indication of this nature been made to us or our 18,000 members by government.”

The British Ports Association pointed out that it had consistently said that a no-deal scenario will cause disruption at some ports . It added: “It is critical that in any scenario, the Government prioritises the flow of port traffic so that it remains fluid and does not introduce any additional checks at the frontier. If necessary, any new checks at ro ro ports should be facilitated inland.”

Chief executive Richard Ballantyne added: “The scenarios set out in the Operation Yellowhammer document are not surprising for British ports who have been working on a range of scenarios with Government for three years. The industry is as ready as it can be for a ‘no deal’ although it is clear that this is about mitigating disruption at certain ports, not avoiding it.

“Ports are of course though only one part, albeit an important component, of the logistics chain. We rely on others – freight forwarders, hauliers, agents, Government agencies – to also be ready for what is an unprecedented level of change potentially coming in with little or no notice. It is clear from the document that this remains a significant concern across the logistics chain.

“There remain questions for operators using both accompanied and unaccompanied ro ro routes but the Government has designed a number of mitigating measures which will help importers temporarily, in the short term. Operators will need time to plan for any longer term solution so some kind of transitional period will be need for any type of Brexit that deviates from present arrangements.”

 

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