Mounting concerns that the country will leave the European Union (EU) without a deal in October has prompted major logistics provider Uniserve to contact its customers for details of their shipments up until the end of the year.

With fewer than 100 business days left until the revised 31 October deadline to exit the EU, the company - part of a group with an annual turnover in excess of £200m - said there was now little time left to put an alternative or negotiated deal in place.

In a letter to customers, Lauren Liddell, Uniserve European network development manager, said there would be disruption to port operations and therefore it had made “a number of alternative arrangements to prepare accordingly”.

She said: “There is an increased likelihood that the UK will leave the EU with no deal on the 31 October and therefore, we would like to start planning with you to ensure that we manage any risk and we are focused on providing an uninterrupted service.

“For us to best plan and organise our services to ensure minimal disruption, please let us know details of shipments you will be sending and or receiving from Europe by month, volume and country, up until the end of the year.”

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Uniserve’s warning came as the SMMT published a report highlighting the high stakes of a no-deal.

The trade association said leaving the EU without a deal would “trigger the most seismic shift in trading conditions ever experienced by automotive, with billions of pounds of tariffs threatening to impact consumer choice and affordability”.

It said that with delays to shipments of parts to production plants measured in minutes, then in a worst case scenario just-in-time operating models would be crippled and result in costs of £70m a day.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, “We are already seeing the consequences of uncertainty, the fear of no deal.

“The next PM’s first job in office must be to secure a deal that maintains frictionless trade because, for our industry, ‘no deal’ is not an option and we don’t have the luxury of time.”

However, the SMMT report also calculates that the right deal could help trigger a 20% uplift in the industry’s global trade value.

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It came as the DfT launched a new process to secure additional freight capacity in the event of a no-deal exit.

The previous process as the UK prepared to leave the EU on 29 March cost taxpayers more than £85m. This included a £34m settlement and legal fees with Eurotunnel, which argued it had not be considered for a contract.

"The DfT is putting in place a freight capacity framework agreement that will provide government departments with the ability to secure freight capacity for our critical supply chains as and when required," a spokesman told the BBC.

"This framework does not commit the government to purchasing or reserving any freight capacity, but it does provide a flexible list of operators and options for the provision of the capacity that can be drawn upon if needed."

Speaking last week, the RHA expressed its concern about the impact of a no-deal departure from the EU.

“Nothing they’re saying gives us any confidence that their plans are up to scratch and fit to manage the realities of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit,” said Richard Burnett, chief executive at the RHA, of the UK government's advice to date.

“Firms are staring at a confusion of unworkable red tape and customs arrangements which cannot cope with demand,” he said.

Burnett said that officials were still in denial about the scale of the gaps in knowledge and how unprepared businesses are for the 31 October departure. “The government simply hasn’t done enough,” he added.

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