The volume of goods moved between the UK and Europe could fall by 20% post-Brexit, Europa Worldwide MD Andrew Baxter told delegates at the Commercial Motor Show 2020, adding that he plans to cover any losses by winning new business from poorly prepared rivals.

Baxter said Europa had worked hard to prepare for the end of the transition period on 31 December, warning that poorly prepared companies risk bankruptcy.

He said: “There will be a real meaningful shift in the marketplace with a 10% or 15%, or even 20% reduction in the total market for the movement of goods.”

He added: “Any reduction is not a good thing from my perspective so we are hoping, to be honest, that some of our competitors are not so well prepared so we can win marketshare to cover any drop in volume and hopefully recover some income through customs clearance income.”

Baxter, a keen Brexiteer, dismissed reports that operators need more clarity to prepare for Brexit, insisting that “about 98% of what needs to be done is clear.”

He warned: “There will be some operators who are not ready who will potentially go out of business,” adding: “Not being ready is not an alternative.”

Immigration law specialist Aldijana Hoad of OTB Legal talked delegates through the law on employing foreign workers post-Brexit.

She told delegates EU nationals already here or arriving before December 31 2020 have to apply under the Right to Settlement scheme by 30 June 2021 in order to remain in the UK, whilst those arriving after 31 December will fall under the new points-based immigration system.

She said her clients’ experience of the right to settle scheme has “so far been quite positive.” but warned employers to educate their EU workforce on their employment rights or risk losing staff unnecessarily.

“There has been a lot of anxiety among EU nationals and having a better understanding of the system in place will hopefully result in fewer believing they have to leave the UK," Hoad said.

Jonathan Backhouse, partner at transport law firm Backhouse Jones, talked about the legal implications of Brexit for the Irish border.

He said the government’s Internal Markets Bill which, by proposing seamless trade across the whole of the UK, puts the onus on the EU to police any movement of goods from the UK into the Republic of Ireland.

“This has effectively turned the tables on the EU by saying ‘you police the border because we are not going to’”, Backhouse explained.

Baxter welcomed the move. He said: “The Northern Ireland border was never our problem. The whole issue has been about us trying to find a solution to satisfy the EU and the EU saying the solution isn’t good enough. It is ludicrous.”

Turning to the legal aspect of the bill, Backhouse said: “Whether the government is strictly in line with international law or not – which by the way is a concept rather than a reality – there are no real sanctions other than a loss of so-called status, but as almost every country has broken international law to some extent, it clearly is no more than a reputational issue and I don’t think a big one, frankly.”

Noting that the Internal Market’s clause would only kick in a no-deal scenario, he added: “I am an optimist and I believe we will have a deal.”

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