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Brexit: what still needs to be done?
Elizabeth de Jong, Director of Policy, Logistics UK
It has been seven weeks since the EU Exit transition period ended, bringing into effect new trading procedures for logistics companies operating between the EU and the UK. With the initial adaptation period over and number of HGVs crossing the Short Straits beginning to return to normal levels, now is an ideal time to review and take stock of the key challenges and issues that remain.
Throughout 2020, Logistics UK worked hard with key government officials and departments to secure the necessary information, agreements and exemptions that would enable the logistics sector to continue functioning, particularly around customs declarations and border procedures for all modes and specific arrangements for Northern Ireland. We welcomed the Trade Cooperation Agreement and deal around the Northern Ireland Protocol, though we have continued to emphasise the need for solutions to new difficulties created by Brexit that are not addressed by these, such as the restrictions currently facing UK-based touring companies.
During the EU Exit negotiations and since, Logistics UK’s Policy Team was involved in many high-level meetings and government groups, including HM Revenue and Customs’ Programme Transition Board and Joint Customs Consultative Committee, the Border and Protocol Delivery Group’s Logistics Steering and NI Protocol Stakeholder groups, and the Department for International Trade’s Transport Services Trade Advisory Group, plus Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Groupage trials with both the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and NI Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to name a few. This effort was recently recognised by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, who, in thanking Logistics UK for its considerable assistance and evidence-based advice, invited us to join the core membership of the Brexit Business Taskforce, where we will be able to raise any issues with government alongside other major business organisations.
In January we surveyed members about their experiences of trading between GB, NI and the EU since the end of the Transition Period, and I am grateful to all those who took the time to provide responses. The findings, details of which we are working through with government to shape priorities and solutions, showed there has been a reduction in trade volumes or postponement in operations, with a large majority experiencing issues with customs and, to a lesser extent, SPS and safety and security declarations. Most of these challenges were attributed to misunderstanding or misinterpretation of new rules throughout the supply chain, so our key focus now is to ensure as many businesses as possible understand the new processes so we can speed up the increase in trade volumes, particularly in advance of the introduction of full border checks on imports from the EU from 1 July.
Additionally, we are urging government to continue to simplify UK red tape and improve its existing processes, such as boosting uptake of current ‘trusted trader’ schemes and bringing forward delivery of the 2025 Border Strategy. We are also asking government to work, in collaboration with the EU, on enhancing the scope of the NI Protocol and Trade and Cooperation Agreement, to allow exemptions for businesses such as touring companies from cabotage rules and to extend grace periods to enable low-friction movement of food and parcels from GB to NI. These will help some businesses that are struggling by removing the obstacles that currently mean their future operations are uncertain.
Though considerable progress has been made, it is clear there are still challenges and issues to address if trade volumes are to recover and the logistics sector is to operate as simply as possible. To date, Logistics UK has been successful in securing many additional benefits and solutions for its members. We will continue to engage with government on the sector’s behalf, including through the high-level influence I hope we will be able to use to members’ benefit as part of the Brexit Business Taskforce.
Members can find assistance and advice on EU Exit matters at out Brexit Hub.
Published On: 18/02/2021 17:00:33