The lack of progress on the industry’s key demands for a trade agreement meant those in the industry charged with maintaining the country’s supply chain after Brexit were left with no means to operate effectively, according to FTA deputy chief executive James Hookham.
“Of the eight demands made in FTA’s list of essentials to ‘Keep Britain Trading’, issued at the beginning of the year, not a single one has been progressed,” he said.
“Details of whether or not the country will have a transition/implementation period are still unclear and there is still no decision on what customs arrangements we will have from March 2019 onwards.”
The lack of confirmation from the Government regarding Brexit talks meant there was uncertainty surrounding the status of the 43,000 EU nationals working as truck drivers in the UK and whether or not UK drivers’ qualifications would be recognised on the continent, Hookham added.
‘The real show stopper’
“But the real show stopper is that, under European law, unless an agreement is reached, there will only be 103 international haulage permits to cover the 300,000 journeys made by British trucks to Europe each year,” he continued.
“The logistics industry is being asked to decide who would get a permit to drive if there were not enough to go around – in effect, being asked to destroy the businesses of its international haulage members.”
The lack of clarity over key issues was eroding the country’s trading relationships with businesses overseas and foreign businesses based in Britain, said Hookham. Potential barriers to international trade were thrown up by the Government’s decision to leave the Customs Union and the Single Market, he claimed.
“We were promised that ‘frictionless' trade would continue through special agreements reached with the EU. Trade talks haven’t even started.
“In the event of a no-deal Brexit, it will be the logistics industry – which operates 24/7, 365 days a year – that will have to pick up the pieces of the failure of politicians to agree. No doubt, we will face the unwarranted ire of consumers and businesses if goods cannot be delivered on time.”
Last year, the Food and Drink Federation warned that a no-deal scenario could lead to massive delays in the supply chain. Businesses operating ‘just-in-time’ supply chains could see empty shelves in four days or fewer if supply were delayed or interrupted – foods with limited shelf life such as fruit and vegetables.
Hookham added: “The industry's frustration with the lack of progress is building daily. Logistics businesses simply cannot answer their customers’ questions about how they will move goods after Brexit.
“Manufacturers and retailers are losing faith and fear that post-Brexit Britain is at real risk of becoming nothing more than a series of road blocks at our ports and airports.”
The prospect of Brexit talks failing at the end of this month was likely in Hookham’s eyes and postponing decisions until the next round in October would impact planning for the busy Christmas period.
“Our members want to make things work, but our hands are tied. With Armageddon scenarios apparently being developed by Whitehall to cope with a no-deal Brexit next March, even the Government seems to think it may be all over.”