Logistics UK, the business group representing the sector charged with keeping the UK economy stocked with the goods and raw materials it needs, has today (11 November 2020) called on government to provide the clarity and systems its members require to prepare for Brexit, so that trade can keep flowing across the UK’s borders after 31 December 2020. Without these, the organisation warns, the UK’s highly interconnected supply chain will break, with the potential for disruptions including lorry queues in Dover and supply issues for Northern Ireland (NI).
Elizabeth de Jong, the organisation’s policy director, speaking in front of the House of Commons Select Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union today (11 November), has no illusions about the scale of the task ahead if the UK’s economy is to be protected after the country’s departure from the EU at the end of the year:
“We have been pressing government for clarity on business and government readiness for the UK’s departure from the EU from 1 January 2021, but not enough has been forthcoming. For example, there are significant delays in delivery of the Haulier Handbook, which is intended to give clear, vital guidance to drivers of all relevant nationalities and hence minimise the length of queues at ports. The launch date for this has been put back to 18 November for a semi-complete version, and 7 December for a complete version – less than four weeks before the UK leaves the EU. This product must then be translated and circulated to thousands of hauliers across Europe so they can read and understand it, and prepare for 1 January 2021.
“Of particular concern are operational barriers and the lack of clarity over trading arrangements between GB and NI. The Customs Declaration Service is untested and construction of Border Inspection Posts for SPS checks has not yet started and will take up to six months to complete.
“New Trusted Trader schemes such as a Retail Movement System are required to allow safe, secure businesses to have streamlined border processes for GB to NI trade. Simplified processes are vital if NI’s businesses and consumers are to be protected. NI is dependent on the reliable supply of goods from GB across a host of industries, including food and medicines. Our sector needs comprehensive written guidance on how trade between GB and NI will operate so that importers, exporters and logistics businesses can prepare.”
With 50 days left to the end of the Transition Period, the industry’s concerns have also been raised in a letter to Michael Gove MP, in which Logistics UK highlighted these issues and urged action from government, as Ms de Jong explains:
“With the economy still reeling from handling the impact of COVID-19, the last thing UK PLC needs is another major shock of our own making,” she continues. “The logistics industry is committed to making Brexit work for the good of the nation but at this late stage, we need government’s help now to ensure our industry can continue to support UK business, prevent lorry queues at Dover and empty shelves in NI and make a success of the UK’s departure from the Single Market.”