As the triggering of Article 50 approaches, both the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and Freight Transport Association (FTA) have stepped up lobbying efforts in recent weeks, warning of the dangers posed by increased red-tape and customs controls.

The RHA highlighted that 30% of all food consumed in the UK comes from the EU, arriving in trucks. Currently, the customs control in place are the same whether goods are being transported from one UK city to another, or from a UK city to Europe, but with Brexit that could change.

Richard Burnett, the RHA’s Chief Executive commented: “The RHA welcomes the government’s commitment to cross-border trade being as frictionless as possible. But customs process for containers and air freight will not work for the millions of trucks that move through Dover and our ports.

“There are nearly 4.5 million journeys between the UK and Europe each year that are HMRC-free at the moment. These trucks carry jobs, components, products – and 30% of our food.”

Meanwhile, the FTA’s James Hookham recently gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee in Parliament, outlined five key issues:

  • Customs systems must be scaled up to cope with the additional 300 million declarations by 2019
  • Shippers and forwarders with no experience of EU customs declarations for the past 24 years must be allowed time to familiarise themselves with the process
  • Other EU countries must put in place reciprocal arrangements to prevent delays at all borders, not just those into and out of the UK
  • Advanced digital customs declarations must be enabled to prevent physical checks at borders
  • The process must be phased in with no ‘cliff edge’ – transport operators’ systems are already stretched and will not cope
  • Mr Hookham gave evidence at a session on the implications for the transport and logistics industry of the UK’s exit from the EU, where he stressed the importance of keeping Britain trading throughout the process and ensuring as few delays as possible.

Hookham is quoted as saying, “Hopefully, there will be ‘frictionless trade’ between the UK and EU, but if there isn’t, or a prospect there won’t be, then these are the key issues for FTA members.  We already know the impact of port delays – just one hour’s delay adds £15,000 cost to the road haulage industry – so a streamlined process is vital.”

The FTA has also announced its Brexit Manifesto, which outlines ten key asks the FTA believes are key to ensuring the “frictionless” trade agreements targeted by Prime Minister Theresa May.

The FTA is also running a one day conference entitled the “Keep Britain Trading Conference”. The event will focus on the issues for the freight industry caused by leaving the EU and will feature a keynote from The Rt Hon David Jones MP, Minister of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union.

It is good to see both trade organisations raising these issues to Government as the triggering of Article 50, and the business of negotiating new trade deals, begins. It is certainly essential for logistics operators that the UK Government does achieve its aim of ensuring trade with the EU is as seamless as possible, and such work by the RHA and FTA will ensure the concerns and requirements of the industry are made clear to the negotiation team.

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