As confusion continues in Westminster over the shape of the UK’s future relationship with the EU, the FTA is urging politicians to find a solution which supports businesses so that Britain can keep trading effectively with its biggest market, the EU. As the clock counts down to March 29 when the UK is set to leave the EU, James Hookham, deputy chief executive of the FTA, warns that a no deal outcome to negotiations would put business, jobs and the economy at risk.

Two years ago, in her Lancaster House speech, PM Theresa May promised that frictionless trade would be protected at all costs, whatever the outcome of negotiations with the EU. This promise has not come to fruition, and the risk of a no deal outcome to the talks, and the threat that this poses to UK business, has risen significantly.

A no deal Brexit would be catastrophic for the supply chain and have a severe impact on trade, business and for Britain as a whole. It would increase delays at the country’s borders, increase red tape and undue costs for logistics businesses already operating on narrow margins and restrict access for transport to the EU.

Furthermore, it would reduce the available skilled workforces for logistics operators already dealing with significant skills shortages in some roles.

No clearer

After two years of negotiations with the EU, logistics operators are no clearer on the trading landscape they will face after the UK’s departure from the EU. The industry is well known for its flexibility and adaptability, but time is now running out to make the changes to processes and procedures which will be required after Brexit.

Issues such as how and where customs declarations are to be made and tariffs collected and how access is to be granted to vehicles travelling to and from Europe, how businesses can recruit sufficient workers and how trailers may travel across borders may seem insignificant to some but these issues will have a direct impact on the whole economy, not just those charged with moving goods and services.

We all know that logistics is an agile and flexible sector, able to adapt to a changing economic situation, but without knowing the parameters in which businesses will be operating, it is impossible to plan effectively – and time is running out. The FTA will not allow logistics to be held up as the whipping boy by politicians who have failed to take into account the complexity of the supply chain over the past two years.

Red tape

A no deal Brexit would leave logistics operators facing increased red tape, restrictions to access and to skilled staff, increased delays and rising costs and puts the livelihoods of the hardworking Britons involved in the movement of freight at risk.

No one voted for that, and the FTA is urging the government once again to reach an agreement with the EU which can keep goods and services moving across our borders with minimal or no hindrance – that is what the Prime Minister promised two years ago and that is what the industry expects.

Efficient logistics is vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods. With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc.

A champion and challenger, the FTA speaks to the government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers.

  • The FTA will be holding a Brexit briefing webinar at 10am on January 25 2019 to help logistics and supply managers to prepare for a no deal scenario and identify areas of particular concern.