The UK’s leading logistics, road haulage, and forwarding associations have called for an “urgent roundtable” with government ministers to address the “significant gaps” in border plans to take effect after the Brexit transition period on 31 December.
In a letter to Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, seen by Lloyd’s Loading List, whose signatories include Logistics UK, the British International Freight Association (BIFA) the Road Haulage Association (RHA), and the UK Warehousing Association (UKWA), they said:
“Following recent meetings with the Border and Protocol Delivery Group, HMRC and the Department for Transport, the concern is growing from the logistics sector as to the Governments and Nations preparedness for a transition.
“Our concern is so strong that we have collectively agreed to request an urgent roundtable meeting with yourself, The Chancellor of the Exchequer and Secretary of State for Transport. As key participants in the supply chain who will be required to deliver a functional operating border for GB and EU traders next year, we have visibility of the current state of preparedness which as it stands has significant gaps.”
The letter continued: “If these issues are not addressed disruption to UK business and the supply chain that we all rely so heavily on will be severely disrupted. The areas of concern that we need to discuss and will form the agenda for this urgent roundtable meeting are as follows:
Grant Funding for Intermediaries: a) Current UK and EU Readiness b) Current recruitment status and blockages c) How the industry and Government can build capacity quickly?
IT and Systems Readiness: a) Single “Entry Process Unit” (EPU) b) GVMS vs French SI Brexit c) Smart Freight d) Trader Support Service e) Trader/Haulier readiness and the timeline for delivery
Physical Border Infrastructure – Pace of Government Delivery: a) Location – What is needed and where? b) Border Inspection Posts c) Digital infrastructure and timing”
The letter concluded: “The COVID pandemic has demonstrated to both Government and the general public the importance of a free-flowing supply chain and with the transition occurring at the same time as a potential second COVID spike it is critical we ensure the supply chain is protected.
“We are asking you to take seriously our concerns and listen to the detail during this roundtable so that we can collectively help Government manage through this enormous challenge with as little disruption as possible. Our aim, like yours, is to have a functional and effective border that allows goods to flow from 1st January 2021.”
Media reports quoted BIFA’s executive director, Robert Windsor, who said: “It is patently clear that on the political front at least, there is a complete lack of appreciation of the enormity of, in effect, constructing a new supply chain after 50 years of completely free trade with the EU.
“The very significant difficulty in trying to link all the parties . . . is neither appreciated nor acknowledged.”
Also quoted was the chief executive of the RHA, Richard Burnett, commented: “The government has to listen and grasp the detail because the issues being raised are not being resolved fast enough.”
Yesterday, Logistics UK highlighted what it called a “lack of pace” in some government preparations for the end of the Brexit transition period could put the UK’s interconnected supply chain at risk, according to the trade body, Logistics UK.
It said that while some of the systems being developed to manage the flow of goods and border processes are making good progress, the industry is concerned that the new Smart Freight system – which will need to be used by every company involved in exporting goods to the EU – will not be ready in time for adequate testing and staff training.