As the Prime Minister meets business leaders at Downing Street today to discuss the potential economic impact of Brexit, the country’s largest membership association for freight and logistics has expressed serious dismay that the sector has once again been overlooked in planning for the UK’s exit from the European Union.
“Logistics is the blood supply that keeps the other parts of the economy fit and healthy,” said James Hookham, Deputy Chief Executive of the Freight Transport Association (FTA), which represents more than 16,000 businesses across all sectors of the freight and logistics industry. “When discussing how trading relationships will operate during and after the Brexit process, it is vital that logistics has a seat at the table. Without it, Britain will find it difficult to keep trading effectively.”
FTA’s members operate more than 200,000 lorries, almost half of the UK fleet, as well as consigning 70% of the nation’s visible air and sea exports, and delivering more than 90% of the freight moved by rail. And as Hookham continues, for the UK’s economy to ensure maximum productivity post-Brexit, it is imperative that the concerns of the logistics sector are included in ongoing trade negotiations, rather than viewed as an afterthought once other negotiations have concluded:
“So many industries rely on the efficient and timely delivery of materials, components and time-sensitive items to ensure that they can keep trading. Yet these lifelines for business will be cut off if the needs of the logistics sector are not taken into account when forging new trading arrangements. Our members have legitimate concerns about whether a frictionless trade deal with Europe will be possible in the post-Brexit world, and it is imperative that government takes these issues seriously if Britain is to continue as a leading player in the European, and global, marketplace.”
In particular, FTA is asking government to consider five key areas identified by its members as crucial to the nation’s future trading success:
• Customs systems and procedures need to be in place which are capable of handling up to 300 million additional annual declarations;
• Time needs to be allowed for the sector to adapt to new systems which will be required for UK-EU trade customs declarations – something that has not been required since the UK entered the EU;
• Equivalent procedures need to be introduced in all other European Customs administrations to avoid intra-EU border delays;
• Checks on vehicles need to be avoided at ports and airports, where there is no time and no room: alternative processes need to be introduced swiftly;
• Transitional arrangements must be robust enough to cope with a round-the-clock industry, particularly if negotiations break down at short notice and the UK exits the Customs Union without a deal.
“Logistics is an economy-critical sector, and it is vital that the industry’s voice is heard at any and all trading negotiations concerning Brexit,” says Mr Hookham. “No trade deal will succeed until freight and logistics arrangements have been considered as part of the wider conversation, and we urge the government to include the sector as part of any future trade discussions. Without it, Britain’s trading relationships could grind to a halt.”