Monday, June 15, 2020

Warehouse Keepers Support Latest Government Change of Stance on Brexit

Easing of Import Customs Clearance Demands Welcomed by Storage Sector
Shipping News Feature

UK – The United Kingdom Warehousing Association (UKWA), which represents warehouse keepers and logistics companies responsible for over 12 million square metres of storage space, has joined the chorus of support from freight and logistics organisations for the latest government pronouncement on EU border checks.

With the announcement that it was sticking to its guns over the matter of an extended transition period and that the country must leave Europe at the end of the year, if necessary with no deal, a mellowing of the official position now means whilst Customs declarations will be needed for Controlled Goods from 1st January 2021, submissions and payments for all other goods may be delayed for up to six months.

The association has long insisted that ports simply do not have the capacity to cope with the estimated 200 million additional customs declarations per annum it believes are likely to be generated by Brexit, and that this would risk serious supply chain interruption. The government’s recent announcement that initially at least, a ‘light touch’ approach will be taken, with less rigorous checks on imports other than controlled goods, than originally planned, is therefore ‘pragmatic’ says UKWA CEO Peter Ward:

“We’re pleased that government appears to be listening, albeit somewhat late in the day. Preparation for full declaration on all goods by the end of the year would not have been feasible. We also welcome the announcement of an extra £50 million investment for support, recruitment and training of intermediaries to prepare for 1st July 2021, when declarations will be needed for all EU trade”

One key area where the UKWA has been putting pressure on the authorities is the question of utilising existing inland facilities for customs and inspection checks to relieve the pressure on the ports, something it seems they have now accepted as common sense. He concluded that, given the government’s determination not to accept any extension of the transition period, this more phased approach constitutes the best comprise for the sector, saying:

“The government has finally acknowledged that multi-functional inland sites will be required for customs and SPS procedures and has committed to build the necessary infrastructure for inland inspection by the end of June next year. Our message is that rather than spend taxpayers’ money on extensive state-of-the-art projects, existing facilities could be effectively optimised. Plenty of our members operate customs bonded warehouses and temperature-controlled facilities within reach of the major Ro/Ro ports.

”These companies have the experience, skills and labour to provide inspection services and would embrace the opportunity to expand their services. We look forward to further engagement with the government on this issue. As ever, the devil is in the detail. We are talking about highly technical and very complex processes; it is vital that the government consults thoroughly with those ‘at the coalface’ to fully understand all implications and a feasible timeline before committing to major change.”

The UKWA tone of course reflects the views of its own members, the bulk of whom will have more interest in the availability and accessibility of import traffic rather than UK exports. The question of a reciprocal deal for these is still in question, with noises from Brussels currently indicative that no similar softening of the EU position will occur.

Photo: Image courtesy of UKWA member John Lewis.