Businesses urgently need more clarity about trade and transport arrangements post-Brexit and a well-planned and adequate transition period, if the UK’s trading position is to be maintained, the UK’s leading body representing the logistics sector has told the Commons Committee for Exiting the EU.
Speaking before the committee in Parliament today (29 November 2017), James Hookham, Deputy Chief Executive of the Freight Transport Association (FTA), said three key areas must be addressed as a matter of urgency if British trading interests are to be protected: trade arrangements, including customs procedures and mutual recognition of standards, market access arrangements for international haulage and the recognition of driver qualifications. These practical concerns must now be prioritised in Brexit negotiations, he said, and a reasonable transition period must be established, to allow trade to continue smoothly in the immediate period after Brexit:
“We need to see a continuation of the arrangements that are in place, where it is intelligence-led, it is targeted and risk based. Where there are no issues on conformity in particular countries, then those goods are not particularly focused on. But what will put the current system under strain, is simply the sheer numbers of vehicles – 10,000 trucks a day. And knowing which one of those vehicles is carrying the consignment that you particularly want to look at. That’s the technological challenge.”
Mr Hookham warned the committee, the level of preparedness of other EU authorities needs to be considered too, as there are two sides to a border: “Whatever concerns our members may have about the readiness of UK agencies and institutions, we are hearing very mixed responses as to the readiness of continental equivalents and our Irish equivalents. I hope the committee understands that even if Britain is ready at day one with a superbly frictionless processing system for all of this. If our trading partners aren’t ready, then we will face inevitable delays.”
The Freight Transport Association has produced a new report, “Ten Ways to Make Customs Borders Work after Brexit” which sets out practical, achievable steps that governments and industry can take to reduce delays at both sides of the border after Britain leaves the EU. With the right arrangements in place, Hookham said, there are potential long-term benefits for British trade after Brexit: “In terms of upsides to Brexit, in terms of positioning ourselves as a global player, I think in keeping trade procedures as low as possible, there is a big opportunity for us to demonstrate what we can do.”
The Freight Transport Association is the UK’s largest and most influential membership association in the freight and logistics sector, with more than 16,000 members operating over 220,000 goods vehicles – half the UK’s fleet. Established in 1889, FTA’s members move goods by road, rail, sea and air, consign over 90 per cent of the UK freight moved by rail and 70 per cent of the nation’s sea and air freight.