Blogs, topical advice, and thoughts from experienced logistics industry advisers

C is for Customs

For most people working in the international logistics sector the biggest impact of Brexit will be on the changes to the rules and procedures they need to observe for the movement of goods across borders. Britain imports more than she exports and the although much is made of the prospects for exporters in the political debate, the changes will be just as important to business sourcing goods from Europe and the forwarders and carriers bringing them into the UK.

So how will Customs procedures change after Britain leaves the EU?

The answer to that question depends on exactly what relationship Britain ends up agreeing with the European Union over future access to the European single market. Much of the current political debate is about the trade-offs of being part of Customs-free trading relationship (the Customs Union) and restricting the free movement of people and the jurisdiction of the European Court over British legal judgements, both of which appear to be essential outcomes for a lot of people in the Brexit debate.

There are, however, a range of options for the way the trading relationship Britain ends up having with Europe and each one will brings its own range of Customs rules and trade procedures. It will be the nitty gritty detail of these rules and procedures that will decide just how burdensome it will be for British companies to import and export goods. That’s not to say it won’t happen, just that a lot of people – many of them in FTA member companies – will be be working hard over the next few years to learn the new rules, sort out the procedures and make it all happen as close to the current levels of efficiency and reliability.

The options available fall into four broad categories.

1. Out of the European Union, but still in the Customs Union, like Turkey. This would limit what other trade deals Britain could strike with other non-EU countries

2. Out of the EU and the Customs Union but still in the European Economic Area (EEA), like Norway. This will probably require Britain to accept the free movement of people and be subject to the rulings of the European Court

3. Out of the EU, the Customs Union and the EEA, and striking a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with either the EU en bloc or with individual EU countries, like Russia.

4. If none of the above applies then Britain can still trade with the EU under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, like most African countries.

The issue for FTA members will be the change in procedures from what happens now, with Britain a fully paid-up member of the EU, the Customs Union and the Single Market. The four options are being vigorously debated by the media in terms of political consequences, however, virtually nothing is known about the precise requirements for goods passing into and out of the EU under the different relationships. So FTA is liaising with other trade bodies and institutions to work out exactly what importers and exporters would need to do under each of these four options: what forms, what paperwork, what declarations, what tariffs would need to be used?

Getting all this worked now doesn’t just mean we can be ready to tell members what to do when the eventual relationship is agreed. There is a bigger purpose: FTA believes the ease with which goods can be imported and exported should be as big a part of deciding which option the Government negotiates as the many other factors at stake. Using our analysis of the impact of Brexit on Customs and trade procedures, FTA will be working out with its members what would be the best set of arrangements for Britain to continue trading with Europe and the rest of world and making the sure the Government is fully aware of the consequences of its decisions.

We will be producing our first analysis and report in time for our Keep Britain Trading Conference on Wednesday 15 March 2017 at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster.  This event aims to make sure you are Brexit-ready and understand the trade options available to the Government as it negotiates Brexit and their impact on operations, how we can make future free trade agreements more logistics friendly and the latest perspectives from the UK Government. Book your place today at this must-attend conference.

Keep up-to-date on all the latest Brexit developments with our Brexit Webinars. You can view our past webinars and also register for upcoming ones to ensure you are always on top of the latest views and news.

Posted: 16/01/2017 13:54:14 by Global Administrator | with 0 comments

Monthly engineering blog sponsored by Texaco

EU commercial vehicle legislation will be the focus at the forthcoming FTA Fleet Engineer Conference later in October, with Volvo Trucks as headline sponsor.

Providing delegates with a unique opportunity to hear about the very latest developments in commercial vehicle technology, the conference will look at forthcoming maintenance legislation changes and best practice advice. Attendance is recommended for those with responsibility for specifying commercial vehicles, ensuring roadworthiness compliance and maintaining vehicles.

The conference will be chaired by Andy Mair, FTA’s Head of Engineering. “This event offers practical help to enable engineers to better manage their fleet for the next year and beyond,” he said. “A packed programme includes technical issues currently affecting fleet engineers, as well as future legislative changes, to ensure vehicle fleets and maintenance procedures operate to their highest potential in a safe, efficient and sustainable way.”

Attendees will also get the opportunity to hear from keynote speaker Sarah Bell, Traffic Commissioner for the west of England, who will be talking about the importance of maintenance provision and meeting compliance standards.

FTA Fleet Engineer is sponsored by Texaco, Brigade Electronics, Goodyear, Isuzu Trucks and Reflex & Allen and supported by IRTE. The conference takes place on Thursday 27 October at The Park Royal Hotel, Warrington.

The cost for FTA members is £325 + VAT for the first delegate and £275 + VAT for subsequent delegates.

For my information and to book your place visit Fleet Engineer Conference 2016
(The views and opinions expressed by the authors of these blogs are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Freight Transport Association)


Posted: 24/10/2016 14:44:45 by Global Administrator | with 0 comments

B is for Borders

Getting your head around all the issues for logistics thrown up by Brexit is a big job. So FTA is helping by grouping its ten biggest concerns in an alphabetical listing, A through to Z and explaining each one in a monthly blog. Our second blog focuses on the most politically contentious issue of them all, the nation’s borders.

“Take back control of our borders” was the mantra of the Leave campaign during the Referendum. And in the immediate aftermath of the vote to quit the EU French politicians are queuing up to help the UK do just that! Literally, relocate the British border controls that had been ‘juxtaposed’ into Northern France since 2003 back onto UK soil. But to do so would reduce cross-channel traffic to a trickle and jeopardise vital UK supply chains reliant on frequent reliable services across the Channel. So whilst having no view on the merits or otherwise of immigration, FTA is mightily concerned on members’ behalf about the prospects of repatriation of the UK’s border controls.

The trouble with bringing back the border onto UK territory is that checks on vehicles for illegal immigrants would be carried out after the ferry or Shuttle train arrives in the UK. Detected stowaways concealed in trailers would be removed and become the problem of the UK government, rather than the French government as they are now. And getting the opportunity to claim asylum in the UK is the goal of most of those encamped around Calais and other French ports. So taking back our borders in this way would make the problem of illegal stowaways on trucks far worse rather than solve it.

But it gets worse. There is nowhere to put any new border controls in the congested and confined terminals at the Port of Dover and the Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone and the road layouts have all been built without the need for further checks once ferries and trains have arrived. Even if space could be found, introducing immigration and customs controls would reduce the throughput of the terminals and slash the frequency of crossings – there would be no point leaving France if the vehicles couldn’t get off in England because the queue for passport control had backed up onto the quayside or arrival platform!

As a result, the service frequency would collapse from the 40- 50 or so ferry and Shuttle crossings a day currently available to whatever could be accommodated through a limited number of immigration booths and vehicle screening bays. Long queues would build up in France, presenting migrants with lines of stationery lorries vulnerable to attempts at breaking in and stowing away to Britain. Just look at how quickly the queues of cars and trucks built up in Kent earlier this Summer when French passport inspections were stepped up at Dover but not enough inspectors were rostered to cope.

Hopefully, this depressing scenario can be avoided. The French President has promised to retain the current border arrangements and is also committed to rehousing the migrants away from the makeshift Jungle camp at Calais and begin processing them through the French asylum system. He aims to do this by February, which if achieved will mean the principal source of threats to international truck drivers passing through Calais has finally been removed before the Presidential elections take place in March. This could be enough to make the repatriation of the border controls a politically pointless exercise for whoever wins.

This is how it should be. FTA has consistently put responsibility for sorting out the humanitarian crisis and the near-collapse in public order that is Calais squarely at the door of the French government. It is simply unacceptable that truck drivers going about their lawful business are subject to violence, threats, attempted hijackings and intimidation. The UK’s borders are likely to become even more difficult to cross after Brexit and FTA will be ensuring the safety and protection of drivers and vehicles and supply chains are high priority issues in any negotiations. But it is demeaning and disrespectful to the hundreds of truck drivers who, in the meantime, put up every day with the frustrations (and much worse) of those denied entry, to suggest that the UK does not already have a high degree of control of its borders.

Next on FTA's A-Z of Brexit: C is for Customs

You can find out more about what Brexit means for logistics via FTA's dedicated Brexit centre where you can find the latest news on Brexit and logistics, see what FTA is doing and join our regular webinars and events around the potential effects on your business.
(The views and opinions expressed by the authors of these blogs are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Freight Transport Association)

Posted: 19/10/2016 15:05:11 by Global Administrator | with 0 comments

A is for Access

Getting your head round all the issues thrown up by Brexit is a big job, so FTA is helping with an A-Z of the most pressing concerns starting with A for Access to the Single European Market.

Access is the term used to describe the ease with which British businesses will be able to continue selling goods and services to customers in the rest of the EU after the UK has finally left the club. This is a really big deal! In fact, it is many thousands of really big deals for the businesses involved. Britain’s import and export trade with the rest of the EU last year totalled £357.8 billion so changing the terms of access to the single market matters for many FTA members.

British businesses will still be able to sell to European customers, of course, and buy from European suppliers but there is a risk this will it will come at additional cost and with strings attached that will make goods less competitive than they are now. Additional costs could come from new Customs tariffs that the EU imposes on British exports, which could add up to 20 per cent to the price of British goods in Europe, and so-called non-tariff barriers, like new documentation required to prove where goods were made, and that other standards have been met for Customs purposes. Producing them for inspections at border crossings also introduces delays and uncertainties on shipments.

The final shape of the new Access deal will also have a decisive influence on two other big Brexit issues: the extent to which current EU-based Domestic legislation can be amended or dropped, and the continued ability of UK businesses to employ and recruit European workers to work here. That is because of the trade-off between the free movement of goods (meaning no tariffs or paperwork) and the free movement of people, better known as immigration. At the moment the EU minimises the tariffs and paperwork on goods movement but requires unfettered movement of people across borders as an essential pre-condition. This is the central point of disagreement between Britain and the rest of the EU and the political success of any new access deal will depend on the extent to which these competing factors can be optimised to everyone’s satisfaction.

The Government has said that it will reach its own agreement with the EU rather than model itself on one of the other non-EU countries that enjoy differing degrees of access to the single market depending on the extent to which they adopt EU rules, like Norway, Switzerland, Turkey or even Russia. FTA fears that the precise terms of the new deal won’t be known until quite close to the end of the two-year negotiating period allowed under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, leaving little time for business to prepare and avoid the perils of Customs procedures, and life without non-UK workers. Or they may have to accept that much EU legislation will continue to apply domestically as the price of securing good Access to the European single market and its pool of qualified and available workers.

You can find out more about what Brexit means for logistics via FTA's dedicated Brexit centre where you can find the latest news on Brexit and logistics, see what FTA is doing and join our regular webinars and events around the potential effects on your business.
(The views and opinions expressed by the authors of these blogs are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Freight Transport Association)

Posted: 07/10/2016 15:12:20 by Global Administrator | with 0 comments

Rob is a member of the House of Commons Transport Committee and Chairman of Parliament’s Freight Transport Group.

From the Maginot Line to Donald Trump’s contentious plans for the US border with Mexico to the Great Wall of Calais, people always find ways to go over, under, round or through any such construction. The problems in Calais are not about access; they are caused by the treatment of pitiful hordes of desperate refugees caught up in a shameful international game of pass-the-parcel. They are the victims in a criminal game of avoiding responsibility by governments from Athens, to Rome to Paris and London. They are not alone. The people of Calais suffer the daily misery of having “the jungle” on their doorsteps. British commercial and tourist drivers are assailed by a problem so far from their own making and impossible for them to alleviate.

Within days, work will start on this £2 million construction (paid for by British taxpayers) which will not solve the problem and will almost certainly make it worse for all concerned. The logic of building such a wall presupposes that it will deter would-be migrants from attempting the potentially lethal journey to this country, stowing away on British vehicles. Does anyone seriously think that people who have scraped together outrageous sums to pay the people traffickers and have made journeys of horrendous danger to reach these shores will simply turn around and go elsewhere once it is built? Having visited the site I can say with utmost certainty that they will not. The refugees I met in Calais are desperate to an extent that no amount of risk to their lives is going to deflect them from their determination to reach Britain.

What will happen is that the refugees will simply try to get on board vehicles further away from the port. The geographical area requiring massive expenditure on security will grow and suck in yet more resources. Police will play an impossible game of cat-and-mouse across a great swathe of the French countryside (residents of poorer areas of Nice and Marseilles must marvel at the number of police uniforms concentrated on Calais and denied to them as a result). The people traffickers will put up their prices tenfold, claiming that the wall makes it harder and more expensive to successfully cross the Channel. Drivers will still be at risk as will refugees. The contractors will make their money and the traffickers will increase theirs. Everyone else will lose.

The wall is about buying time for the French and British governments. It is about being seen to be doing something while ignoring the root causes. The French are shutting their eyes to the problem, saving money by offering shopping bags of food rather than properly housing and processing the migrants. In the long term, solving the problems of those countries from which the people come will be the only answer. While such solutions are so far from anyone’s grasp, there must be a policy of tough love towards the migrants. The unwilling governments of the Mediterranean must be persuaded to deal with the influx of people where they land and not simply passing them on to their neighbours. The camp, which makes such an unpalatable home to all living there, must come down. Only a strong approach will have any hope of deterring people from coming – and in so doing keep them from the clutches of the criminals who promise them a route to Britain. It is tough love, but it is the only way.

1900 years ago, Emperor Hadrian built a wall. One of the most expensive structures ever erected by Rome, it was meant to keep the “barbarians” (with apologies to all from Scotland – the emperor’s words not mine) out of imperial lands. Within forty years it had been abandoned because it did not work. The uselessness of the Great Wall of Calais will become clear rather more quickly than that. We can only ponder how many lives and livelihoods it will blight before that realisation dawns on its builders.
(The views and opinions expressed by the authors of these blogs are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Freight Transport Association)


Posted: 09/09/2016 14:54:05 by Global Administrator | with 0 comments