FTA urges Customs rethink at Welsh Assembly

Monday 12 June 2017

The Freight Transport Association has called for the Welsh Assembly to pressure the new national government to review its decision to leave the EU Customs Union. This call comes following the confusion caused by the results of the General Election, a lack of a clear mandate from British voters and the diminished chances of securing a frictionless trade deal with the EU.

Speaking in front of the Welsh Assembly’s External Affairs Committee, Chris Yarsley, FTA’s EU Affairs Manager said: “In order to ensure that Wales and the rest of the UK can continue to trade effectively with Ireland and the European Union, it is vital that delays in port areas are kept to a minimum following Brexit.  The needs of the freight sector must be paramount if trade is to continue without time delays or increased costs.

“Exiting the Customs Union threatens the imposition of tariffs, border checks, Customs declarations and huge amounts of bureaucracy for the significant number of Welsh businesses that trade in the EU, and the logistics organisations that deliver it for them.  Negotiating a replacement trade deal that avoids these would require a strong and convincing mandate, which the election has now put into doubt.  The importance of frictionless arrangements for UK trade with the EU, particularly with Ireland, means that the decision to leave the Customs Union should be reviewed as a matter of urgency, and other ways of achieving a positive outcome for Brexit should now be considered.

Industry estimates indicate that the number of HGVs transiting through Holyhead rose by 630% from 1992-2015, from 54,000 to 392,000 per year.  This sum represents around half of all goods vehicles moving between Dublin/Rosslare and the English and Welsh ports.  And as Yarsley continued during his submission to the committee, failing to make adequate provision for additional processes now required at the borders could have significant knock-on effects not just for Welsh business, but industry further afield.

“All parties need to consider the consequences of the reintroduction of border checks on goods, not just for Wales but the UK and the rest of Europe,” he said.  “Failing to make adequate provision for their introduction will have significant impacts on the efficiency, not just of Welsh and Irish port operations, but also for the economies of all those whose trade uses these routes.

“Welsh port operators need to take urgent action to consider all the implications of Brexit on freight operators, to identify potential bottlenecks on a port-by-port basis, and develop solutions reflective of the type of port traffic, volumes and frequency of sailings which can be anticipated.  Contingency planning groups must be established now, with representatives of the freight industry, port authorities and government, to ensure that, if our call to revisit the Customs Union decision goes unheeded, plans can be created to keep our nation trading with little or no impact.

“FTA is the leading voice for logistics on Brexit and is urging the Welsh government to place the sector at the heart of the country’s asks to be sent to national government, ahead of the upcoming Brexit negotiations.  Our members agree that the government’s aim of delivering a frictionless trade deal for British business outside of the Customs Union has now become much more difficult than before the election. We are therefore calling for a rethink of that decision, and for other options to be considered in which Brexit can be delivered whilst reducing the impact on British exporters and importers and the international logistics businesses that deliver the UK economy.  Logistics is key to the successful delivery of the nation’s ongoing economic success and must be front and centre as the talks get under way.”  

FTA represents all modes of the UK’s freight and logistics sector on behalf of its 16,000 members.  The UK remains a leader in logistics at a global level, ranked in the top ten countries in terms of logistics performance, and the sector contributes 11% of the UK’s non-financial business economy.  In 2016, 2.54 million people were employed in logistics in the UK, approximately 8% of the UK’s workforce.  FTA members operate over 220,000 goods vehicles - half the UK fleet - consign over 90 per cent of the freight moved by rail and 70 per cent of sea and air freight.
FTA Press Office
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