In response to the report issued by the National Audit Office (NAO) on border preparedness for a No Deal Brexit, Pauline Bastidon, FTA’s Head of European and Global Policy, comments:
“The NAO report highlights the scale of the challenge for industry. It echoes’ FTA’s messages to government about structural issues that are slowing down preparedness, such as the shortage of customs brokers able to support industry in complying with new customs formalities or the lack of clarity on operational details – not least in relation to how the Irish border would be managed by the Irish Government in a no-deal situation. The situation is particularly challenging for UK exports to the continent and Ireland – especially for agri-food products, where a shortage of veterinarians able to sign export certificates is to be feared. In spite of the industry’s best efforts, delays and disruptions cannot be and should not be excluded, at a time when logistics and supply chain managers are less able to mitigate disruptions due to high demand for transport and warehousing capacity ahead of the Christmas period.
“Preparing also comes at a substantial cost: the government estimated last week that the cost of complying with customs requirements alone would be in the range of £7.5 billion per year for the UK industry, which is significant and will be particularly heavy for SMEs. These investments need to be considered in the context of the prolonged uncertainty around the final Brexit outcome. While funding for industry and logistics training in particular is welcome, financial support came late in the day and will not be able to compensate for the lack of operational details. And while everyone focuses on day one after a no-deal outcome, we should not lose sight of the future: logistics currently has very limited visibility over the medium term as many of these arrangements have been deemed unsustainable, as highlighted in the NAO report, and even arrangements for road haulage and air freight are time limited.
“Despite FTA writing to Michael Gove on a weekly basis, we are still waiting for satisfactory responses on the majority of issues raised, both in relation to day one after no-deal and the medium term. The logistics industry is resilient and flexible but preparedness can only be optimal if our members have full clarity on what is being expected of them operationally and what to prepare for at the border and beyond. With 15 days remaining, the government needs to address these critical issues and provide the information needed to keep Britain trading.”