‘When we saw the UK’s Brexit mandate we felt a strong sense of disappointment,’ says Pauline Bastidon, Head of European and Global Policy at the Freight and Transport Association. ‘We thought the UK would ask for something more ambitious than it did,’ Bastidon continues in an interview with The Logistics Point about the UK’s position on Brexit, the future trade agreement.
READ: UK’s logistics: falling competitiveness and soaring optimism
The expert says that neither of the negotiating mandates were what the organisation and its members were hoping for and describes many parts of both positions as disappointing. FTA says that both the EU and UK are looking to negotiate a relatively loose trade agreement.
‘We had slightly higher expectations, especially from the UK,’ explains Pauline Bastidon.
What the government is asking for is not only going to restrict the market for British carriers, but will also make transport connections to and from the UK more difficult. Operators from both parts of the English Channel will not have the right to do business in the other’s territory. ‘For our members this is a concern because they won’t be able to do a lot of the jobs they do now. It is also a problem for deliveries, specifically for areas further away from Dover,’ explains Bastidon.
All of this could make the UK a less attractive market for international companies. The problem could be amplified by the driver shortages and the new immigration rules.
The organisation is also disappointed that the UK is not looking into getting the so-called 5th Freedom where UK airlines could operate cargo flights between the EU and third countries. ‘There was no mention of rail at all,’ continues the expert.
READ: The need for optimised ecosystem
Room for maneuver
As for what the EU had offered the organisation says it was expected but there are some disappointing points when it comes to the road-haulage sector. The organisation recognises that some things put forward in the EU mandade are vague for a reason and that this will allow more flexibility during the negotiations. However, they feel this might turn into a problem and might signal a lack of ambition in both sides. Bastidon says that the EU’s conditions might not be acceptable for the UK’s government, but Brussels has at least “not shut the door for discussions”.
A good start is that both sides are seeking a zero tariff agreement and facilitation of goods’ movement. The rule-of-origin however could derail these promises, as Bastidon says it could be very bureaucratic and demanding. According to her that is why many good trade agreements are not used to their full potential because complying with the rule is costly and many British companies are small and cannot afford such investments.
Another good thing in the UK’s mandate is that the country would like to be able to accumulate goods produced both in Britain and in the EU so it can export them around the world.
The UK would not try to get an agreement for recognition of safety checks at customs. The organisation says that companies will be asked to provide certain data in a specific timeframe where a lot of the information would not be available before it is too late to send it. In addition the documentation that would be required could cause a lot of problems to smaller companies as they would not have the capacity to deal with it. The port of arrival could also change based on multiple factors in the very last minute so such documents could not be issued. EU rules for arriving goods have been revised and will become more complex and will start applying at the end of next year.
The organisation has done a trial where they found out it would take around 30 minutes for one set of documents to be checked. Bastidon explains that such documents will be needed for both import and export. ‘Imagine if you are carrying more than one type of product in your truck, which happens often,’ she continues. Additionally, the FTA is worried that some international drivers might get stuck at the border with their lorries and goods because of new checks.
The UK government has proposed to minimise the physical checks of the goods and the FTA things that is good as there is a mention of the New Zealand system which provides checks to only 1% of all goods. However, document checks will have to be more vigorous and prolonged. On the other hand it is unknown whether the EU would see the system as a good solution.
For the experts it is hard to give a solid reason why the UK’s mandate is not more ambitious. She thinks that the government wants to show that they are not trying to cherry-pick or get something that is unattainable. London is looking into getting a deal that is based on other systems, is basic and the time frame is very limited.