FTA says UK government comments on Brexit ‘not helpful’

By Rachelle Harry

The UK Freight Transport Association (FTA) has expressed its concern to the government about trading arrangements with the EU during the Brexit transition period.

The FTA’s announcement follows comments made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid, at the weekend, which suggested a hardening in the government’s approach to Brexit because the industry has had “more than enough time to prepare”.

Elizabeth de Jong, director of policy at the FTA, commented: “Whilst the logistics industry welcomes the clarity in direction that the new government brings, it is not helpful to tell businesses they have already had three years to prepare. The most important question is: prepare for what exactly?

“There are a number of critical questions about the way goods will move across borders between the UK and the EU, and importantly the different arrangements that will need to be put in place between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is just not possible for logistics businesses to prepare adequately without these critical operational details.”

Discussions about the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU have been ongoing since the referendum in 2016 and up until last week, government policy focussed on making trading arrangements as frictionless as possible. The FTA noted that even last week, the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, spoke about negotiating a favourable trade deal, implying soft borders at the end of the transition period.

De Jong added: “Whilst there is still time for industry to prepare for increased levels of friction at borders, it is essential that the logistics sector is fully involved in the early design and testing of new procedures. As always, FTA is ready and willing to help, but the detail is really important; we need months not minutes to get ready for the changes.”

The FTA has contacted the new administration with vital questions to speed up the planning and testing process this year. The questions cover issues such as the exact processes and types of formalities required for goods moving across the borders, and the new systems, accreditations and training required to make this happen successfully.

De Jong explained: “Knowing there will be customs formalities and regulatory divergence is not enough; FTA members need to know exactly what this will mean and how new requirements will be enforced, particularly on the UK side. They also need clarity on the new arrangements for transport. As of today, there has been no response or clarification on the detail behind these critical issues.

“The logistics industry is vital to keep Britain trading, and is fully committed to making a success of any new rules. However without time for effective planning and testing, delays at the border and other interruptions to the supply chain are very likely to have a critical impact on the availability of time-sensitive goods, such as fresh food and medicines.

De Jong concluded: “It is clear that for the logistics industry, and the effective movement of goods across borders, some of that detail is fundamental to making Brexit a success, and we look forward to supporting the government as soon as possible in preparing for those specific and significant changes.”

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