UK forwarders concerned about the end of EU transition period

By Damian Brett

Robert Keen, BIFA director general

UK forwarders have significant reservations over whether they will have the capacity to handle major changes to the UK’s trading relationship with the European Union (EU) at the start of 2021, according to a survey by UK forwarder association BIFA.

In a general question on their understanding of the government’s plans for the border after the end of the transition period, more than half of the respondents said that they either had no knowledge, or what knowledge they do have needs improving.

In regards to the border operating model, whilst 70% of respondents said they understand the customs procedures required to import goods into the UK from the EU at the end of the transition period; less than half said that was the case in regards to safety and security declarations. This was also the case with respondents that are involved in the import of live animals, and/or products of animal origin; as well as fresh fruit and vegetables.

The results were broadly similar for procedures to be followed for export movements from the UK to EU. Although 79% said they have no understanding of import procedures in individual EU Member States regarding export movements from the UK to EU.

Robert Keen, director general of the trade association, said the results of BIFA’s latest survey of members clearly demonstrates that much greater clarity is needed on government plans for the border.

“The results indicate that the recent publication of the Border Operating Model and Moving Goods Under the Northern Ireland Protocol have not greatly assisted members’ understanding of procedures regarding imports and exports between the EU and UK, and GB and Northern Ireland, respectively.”

Keen added: “In a similar survey conducted in May this year, 50% of respondents felt they would not have sufficient staff to undertake the additional Customs-related work that will be required from January 1st 2021.

“In the latest survey that has increased to 64% of respondents, which makes sense in light of the fact that 69% of respondents in our latest survey said the Covid-19 pandemic had impacted on their ability to prepare for the end of the Transition period.”

Asked whether they understand the correct processes relating to trade between mainland GB and NI under the Moving goods under the Northern Ireland Protocol, the overwhelming majority of respondents said they do not understand the Customs procedures, nor the safety and security declarations that will be required.

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