BIFA joins calls for softer Brexit

19 / 06 / 2017

The British International Freight Association (BIFA) is calling for UK negotiators to push for a deal that keeps Britain in the European Union (EU) customs union.

BIFA's call came on the day that representatives of the British government and the European Commission sat down in Brussels to begin complex negotiations over Britain's withdrawal from the EU, which could go ahead in March 2019.

Robert Keen, director general of the UK freight forwarder's body, said: “Over the weekend, we heard the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, dismiss speculation that the UK could pursue a soft Brexit and remain part of the EU's customs union and the single market.

“Like many, BIFA believes the economic benefits of the EU single market, which allows free movement of goods, services, capital and people, and the customs union, which enables tariff-free trading within the EU, should be maintained until a final settlement between the UK and the EU is agreed and implemented, whenever that might be.

“In light of the confusion caused by the results of the recent General Election, and the lack of a clear mandate from the UK Electorate, Mr Hammond and others, ought to be trying to convince colleagues to review the decision to leave the EU customs union, as laid out by Theresa May in her Lancaster House speech in January."

Keen continued: “Efficient and effective visible international trade needs fluidity at the borders and BIFA fears that leaving the customs union will lead to the imposition of tariffs, border checks, Customs declarations and bureaucracy for the many UK businesses trading within the EU, as well as BIFA members, which provide the logistics services that underpin such trade.

“As others have said, the failure to secure a significant mandate in the General Election has left the UK Brexit team in a much-weakened negotiating position.

“BIFA, on behalf of its members, suggests the Government needs to keep an open mind on solutions needed for the post-Brexit period, rather than throwing out the baby with the bathwater by having an inflexible attitude on ongoing membership of the customs union.”