As the latest round of Brexit negotiations enter their second day in Brussels today (26 September 2017), the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has welcomed the call from Prime Minister Theresa May for a transition period to be a key priority for the talks. FTA, which represents more than 16,000 businesses transporting goods and services across the UK and Europe, has been lobbying for such a period since Article 50 was triggered, to enable the preparation of the necessary systems and processes to ensure that post-Brexit trade can run smoothly.
“Mrs May’s speech in Florence finally recognised the complexities of the trading relationships and processes which will need to be agreed and implemented,” says Pauline Bastidon, FTA’s head of European Policy, “and her call for a transitional period, to give enough time for negotiators to conclude a trade agreement, and for authorities and businesses to adapt, is a huge relief for a logistics industry charged with ensuring that trade continues to move smoothly after Brexit. The government has finally acknowledged the scale and complexities of the task ahead to ensure frictionless trade across borders with the European Union, both mainland Europe and in Ireland, which will come as a relief to our members, which have expressed concern while facing the task of ensuring that goods and services still reach their destinations.
“It is now imperative that the intentions outlined in Mrs May’s speech are followed by concrete actions. Logistics arrangements affect every part of our daily lives and need to be prioritised in Brexit negotiations. Customers need to be certain that vehicles and planes can keep moving, that drivers can operate across borders and supply chains will not have to face insurmountable challenges overnight on Brexit day. Setting up the necessary arrangements for post-Brexit trade will take time and effort to get right and both industry and the authorities deserve some certainty that the status quo will prevail until all parties are ready to proceed with new arrangements. As Mrs May said on Friday, people, businesses and public services should only have to plan for one set of changes as the country leaves the EU.
“The UK’s trading partnership with the European Union is vital to the future health and growth of the British economy and it is now time for the detail of how these relationships are to develop to be at the top of the Brexit negotiating agenda. The country’s businesses deserve to see constructive progress on mechanisms which will be needed in the future, so they have time to plan and implement changes seamlessly. FTA is ready and willing to provide any assistance necessary to ensure that Britain can keep trading efficiently in a post-Brexit world.”
Ms Bastidon also urged clarity from the government’s negotiators on the situation regarding trading arrangements with Ireland, which were missing from Mrs May’s speech on Friday:
“The trading position with Ireland is a hugely complex one, and creative solutions are required to ensure that a hard border is not established between the Republic and Northern Ireland. Many businesses operate on an “island of Ireland” basis and their business models would be negatively impacted by any changes affecting the fluidity of trade and transport movements across the border. This needs urgent attention at the negotiating table, and FTA, and its sister membership body, FTA Ireland, will be pressing officials this week in Brussels to find a solution which enables Irish trading interests to continue to flourish with both UK and European customers.”
FTA represents the businesses that use or operate freight by any and all modes. Its members operate half of the UK’s lorry fleet (more than 200,000 vehicles) and consign 90% of the goods moved by rail and 70% of the country’s visible exports by sea and air. The sector contributes 11% of the UK’s non-financial business economy. In 2016, 2.54 million people were employed in logistics in the UK, approximately 8% of the UK’s workforce.