Sarah Laouadi Head of International Policy at Logistics UK
The British government is thinking about delaying post-Brexit checks once again. But why is this a problem for the logistics industry? We spoke to Sarah Laouadi Head of International Policy at Logistics UK about the challenge of delaying, if it creates an unfair advantage for EU companies and the state of trade between the UK and Europe.
Why is considering another delay to Brexit checks a problem?
What we are concerned about is that this is not the first delay; after three other false starts for the introduction of import controls from the EU, the Government must make a clear commitment to a deadline. Any additional delays to the introduction of post-Brexit border checks on imports will simply postpone the inevitable, and send mixed signals to businesses that have been urged for months to get ready for the additional formalities involved with moving goods across the UK’s borders.
What we need to see is an analysis of the gaps in readiness that are actually pushing the government to consider postponing the deadline once again. If Government does indeed have sufficient evidence to conclude that sticking to the planned timetable would jeopardise the supply of key imports into the country, then Ministers need to share the relevant data and produce key actions to lift these obstacles. It is vital that if the deadline is postponed, government works with industry to prepare a clear action plan, and takes the necessary steps to ensure the next deadline is final.
Can we speculate why it is necessary? Is it because the infrastructure is not ready or there are other political reasons?
While the Government has not shared its reasons for considering a delay in the introduction of checks, there are general circumstances and events that might have played a role. For example, the war in Ukraine is adding to supply chain uncertainty and the increasing cost of doing business is also a key concern.
Would a delay offer an unfair advantage to EU business trading in the UK?
Legally speaking, I wouldn’t say that it’s giving them an unfair advantage, but it’s certainly solidifying a situation which is not symmetrical. UK exporters have been facing the full set of the EU’s border requirements straight after the end of the transition period, whereas EU exporters sending their products to the UK have benefitted from a gradual introduction of the UK’s import requirements which are not in their final stage yet. This is not something that we would like to stay in place for the long term.
How prepared are UK companies in your opinion to deal with the situation?
UK companies have made a huge effort to get ready. There has been a lot of work and energy that has been put in this preparation. Now it’s important to make sure that the timetable is credible and reliable to allow businesses to optimise all preparations and coordinate effective decision-making.
To give you an example, if a business had decided that they need to hire new staff to comply with the import requirements that would have been in a few months, they may have made arrangements already for that purpose. But if the deadline keeps moving, the decision to hire may not be completely optimised against the timetable.
We would also need to educate all players in the industry about the new requirements. This is another area where the level of readiness has to be sufficient to try to make a success of it. At Logistics UK we have spoken to our partners in the EU and have offered support to the UK government and to our members, through our communication channels.
Can we evaluate how Brexit is going on for the industry as a whole? What problems have there been?
It is not Logistics UK’s role to comment on the merits of Brexit as a political decision. From a logistics perspective, however, leaving the EU Single Market always meant there would be more formalities and therefore more friction at the border. It was therefore a challenge for businesses to adapt to this new environment in order to preserve supply chains. It is important not to underestimate the issues that companies have faced at micro level, leaving some of them with business models that were simply not working anymore. But at macro level, despite initial disruptions and delays, the logistics community rose to the challenge and kept the goods we need moving.
I think that is a testament to the resilience of our members and the ability of the industry to make pretty much everything work on the ground, provided that we get clarity and advance notice from the government about new processes and systems.