The FTA has warned its members that a hard Brexit may force them to rethink their business models.

Speaking exclusively to MT, head of global and European policy, Pauline Bastidon, identified a number of key concerns as the new Brexit deadline of 31 October looms.

These included problems with warehousing capacity, stockpiling costs and shortages of drivers and fuel.

“For many products it’s about supply chains," she explained. “The worry there is you not only have to look at additional costs, practical difficulties such as warehouse space and so on but it might also force you to change your business model which is the big problem that the automotive industry is going to face."

Asked what was currently worrying members most, she said that in terms of the domestic market, the skills shortage was their main concern.

“It’s the first thing members are worried about - and the implications that the changes in immigration policy would have,” she said. “I’m worried about that because the driver shortage that the UK is suffering from is a European-wide problem, even in Poland.

“There’s a worry over availability of drivers and Brexit might make that even more difficult. At times like Christmas you can bring in drivers on a temporary basis from the continent who are not permanent residents in the UK. But this will be a lot trickier after Brexit and the latest announcement on immigration policy is not particularly reassuring. They’re not necessarily going to get good treatment immigration-wise and that’s an additional worry.

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“They’re also very worried about new tariffs being put on new vehicles coming from the continent, which was announced back in March. And after the Yellowhammer leaks we’ve had a few members worried about the implications in terms of fuel shortages, which was one of the things mentioned in there.”

Bastidon also admitted there was “a problem across the board” with warehousing capacity, despite warehouse occupiers, led by retailers and 3PLS, reportedly pushing ahead with plans to upgrade their networks.

“In the UK, warehousing is limited, and for products that need to be chilled or refrigerated it’s even more limited," she continued. "While it was relatively fine in March, there’s now a problem – supermarkets like Sainsbury's have spoken about it. There's a particular problem with warehousing space because of the upcoming Christmas period. A lot of the warehousing capacity was reserved ages ago, before the decisions were made, and this has created a lot of practical difficulties and worries for many of our members. They’ve said we’ll try to stockpile but we’ll be limited in terms of how much we can do that because the situation is not the same as it was in March. The capacity has been used for other things.”

Bastidon went on to claim that members involved in international transport had “even bigger problems”.

"They have worries about even being able to operate on the EU market after Brexit," she said. “If they’re registered in the EU it’s less of an issue short term because the UK has adopted, prior to March 29, legislation saying EU hauliers would have the same rights as they do today. I’m afraid the EU contingency has a time limit of the end of this year. In terms of scope, they were not going to offer preservation of the status quo for UK hauliers wanting to operate on the continent. It would be status quo as far as transporting goods to the EU, but for intra-EU movement there would be very drastic restrictions compared with what hauliers would enjoy today."

She admitted members involved in international transport were "not only concerned but have been talking to us about every single solution pretty much from the beginning. Ones transporting material for musical concerts etc, or transporting works works of art for example - very active members. Even those transporting for the film industry. There are sectors where UK haulage has been doing really well internationally. The general haulage sector is more ad hoc but some specialise in the international market and they are very worried."

Meanwhile, the RHA said that the document’s worst case planning assumptions came as no surprise and confirmed its worst fears about the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the supply chain:

“This is what we’ve been talking about for the last three years,” said Richard Burnett, RHA chief executive. “We’ve been consistently warning that no deal will mean disruption at the border and across the supply chain as firms get to grips with unfamiliar processes.

“An increase in energy from the government has been welcome but it needs to throw all its weight into minimising the impact leaving the EU without a deal will have on the economy.”