Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Letter on Brexit Produces Government Response - But Will it be Too Little Too Late?

The Whole of UK Logistics is Concerned About Escaping Europe
Shipping News Feature

UK – Last week we told how the great and the good of the British logistics industry had written collectively to Michael Gove MP in his capacity as Minister for the Cabinet Office, requesting a round table meeting to discuss the potential pitfalls of a no deal Brexit.

The original letter, drafted by the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and signed by such stalwarts of the industry as the heads of the British International Freight Association (BIFA), United Kingdom Warehousing Association (UKWA), Logistics UK, the British Association of Removers (BAR), Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) and the Cold Chain Federation (CCF) can now be read HERE.

It seems to have done the trick as Mr Gove replied just six days later to say such a discussion would be scheduled by his staff. In the letter sent last Wednesday RHA Chief Executive Richard Burnett and the others raised long-standing industry concerns about new customs IT systems, border infrastructure and a lack of movement on recruiting and training the 50,000 new customs agents which firms will need to manage extra red tape next year. Upon receipt of the reply Mr Burnett commented:

“I’m greatly encouraged that Mr Gove has responded so quickly. Like us, he is obviously concerned about the Government’s post-transition plans for hauliers. With only 81 working days left until the transition period ends we have to make sure that we can achieve a solution that works for everyone.”

It seems Mr Burnett is taking every opportunity to put the case of his members. Today he appeared on Parliament TV giving evidence to the Brexit Select Committee on the matter of the UK/EU border. He explained the frustration of the haulage industry in trying to get across the gravity of the situation to politicians.

He also questioned the relevance of the once again mooted ‘Brexit Lorry Parks’ telling Committee Chair Hilary Benn that his members did not understand what they were going to be used for, also mentioning the problem of the shortage of ISPM15 certified wooden pallets post Brexit, the lack of information on the unbuilt and untested Goods Vehicle Movement System (GMVS), and he lingered on his specialist subject, how the new procedures will work for truckers.

Explaining that he fails to see how the government approach of intending to fine truckers they felt might be carrying exports would solve the problem of delays, he continued;

“We haven’t got clarity on how [border-ready checks] will work. The industry as a whole is questioning how you would identify whether a vehicle was actually heading for Europe when it enters Kent, as some lorries will be entering the county on domestic deliveries. But yes, at present the Government are talking about on-the-spot fines for trucks entering Kent if their paperwork for travelling to the EU isn’t correct.”

He dismissed the idea of ‘Kent Access Permits’ saying the government was applying sticking plasters to a major problem and adding he felt there was currently an 80% chance of chaos in Kent, and that rolling out Operation Brock would mean ‘fundamental failure’, treating the symptom, not the disease.

With safety and security declarations mandatory for every individual consignment, rather than by truck load, it was placing an impossible work load on the haulier. Robert Hardy from the Customs Clearance Consortium agreed that hauliers would not be ready to handle the new declarations, which is why the start date for them has been pushed back to mid-2021.

The edited transcript of the evidence given to the Select Committee can be read here.

Photo: Courtesy of the Customs Clearance Consortium.