Kevin Buchanan, MD, Pall-Ex Group

Pall-Ex is well placed to deal with any short-term consequences from Brexit but believes any reduction in the availability of EU labour could hurt the UK’s transport industry.

Speaking to MT, MD Kevin Buchanan said that while there remained great uncertainty around Brexit, Pall-Ex Group itself was no longer solely reliant on UK/EU trade.

Pall-Ex has partner networks in Portugal and Spain (as Pall-Ex Iberia), Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, the Benelux region and France, with Poland set to go live later this month.

As a network it now moves more pallets on average each day through its European partners on the continent than it does within the UK.

This diversity should, the theory goes, afford it and its members across the group a degree of protection if the UK market is at least temporarily affected by the imposition of trade tariffs if no trade deal with the EU is reached by 2019's deadline.

“What’s Brexit going to do? Well they [the Europeans] will still move freight amongst themselves whether we are in the union or not,” Buchanan said.

“The biggest concern [from Brexit] is any short term impact on the UK economy. No one really knows what the deal is so nobody really knows what the short term hit will be.

“At the moment the economy remains quite strong and everyone is getting on with things. If that continues we’ll all be fine.

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“However, the biggest challenge we face is a labour shortage. This has all largely been about immigration. But what people forget is who is going to pick your fruit, who is going to drive your trucks?” he said.

Buchanan said Pall-Ex has member-hauliers that have already had to park vehicles up in their yards as they haven’t been able to get enough drivers at times, even through agencies - a labour situation many believe will become worse after Brexit.

“It’s a big issue and that will restrict the growth of the economy [if it comes to past],” said Buchanan.

The pallet network boss was also in no doubt as to the reason UK transport has come to rely on labour from the EU.

“We all know that one of the most under-respected roles in our society is the driver that drives the goods around and gets them to their destination. We don’t think about it; we take them for granted,” he said.