Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Brexit - At Last a Balanced Appraisal from a Leading British Freight Industry Figure

Forget the Hype and Naysayers - Government Must Listen to More Experienced Voices
Shipping News Feature
UK – EUROPE – British International Freight Association (BIFA) Director General Robert Keen has expanded this week on a subject which he first touched on only in the July issue of the organisation’s magazine BIFA link, namely the thorny subject of Brexit. During the intense debate leading up to the fiercely contested referendum the BIFA boss was sensibly silent until 10 days before the vote, maintaining a neutral position, at which time he again refrained from commenting directly, but allowed himself to mention that dreaded word which was to see families argue and friends fall out such was the strength of emotion in some quarters.

Now however the choice is made, the dust somewhat settlled and the BIFA chief has put the subject of the UK’s departure from Europe, at least administratively, in focus and published some common sense views on where the country now stands, what the government could and should be doing, and avoiding the line taken by so many ‘analysts’ who present their private opinions as absolute facts. Mr Keen comments:

“Is there any worth in speculating on the consequences of Brexit before anything tangible has happened and there is little sign of any clear information emerging from Government on the timetable for exit? The current torpor is best illustrated by the total lack of communication to have emerged so far from the office of the Secretary of State for exiting the European Union. The 'silly season' is a much used term for a period of the year when a lack of hard news sees coverage of stories that are unverifiable at best and trivial at worst.

“Whilst there is nothing trivial about Brexit, none of the copious speculation about whether trade between the EU and UK will increase in complexity, carry new risks; grow or decline, is verifiable at present. As Brexit unfolds, there will so many issues affecting visible trade and the work of our members who facilitate that trade. But government seems to be a long way from even getting to the starting line on the Brexit procedure, as well as any fundamental understanding all of the possible permutations and challenges.

“Only last weekend, the national media reported that Britain's exit from the EU could be delayed until late 2019 because the government is too ‘chaotic’ to start the two-year process, early next year. The reports indicate that government does not have the infrastructure for the people they need to hire and that anyone who is hired will not have sufficient experience to know, let alone ask the right questions, when they finally begin bargaining with Europe.

“So we will avoid adding the trade association's voice to what is currently a worthless game of ifs and buts about the potential impact of Brexit on trade. Instead we will focus our efforts and comments on getting the UK government to get on with making the big decisions about matters we do know all about and educating those in government, some of whom are currently making rash statements on the hoof.

“We need government to deliver strong, calm and decisive leadership on infrastructure decisions for example, such as the expansion of UK airport capacity. Rest assured, when government is ready to fire the starting pistol on Brexit, BIFA will be ready to make the necessary representations on behalf of our members.”