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Brexit: are you ready? 

17 October 2018

When Handling & Storage Solutions came to The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) asking for a piece outlining the key issues facing our members, there was way for us to go; the ‘B’ road. Whether you voted for Brexit or not, it really doesn’t matter; it is here and it is happening. 

For the last two years, CILT has been encouraging industry to work together to ensure the future success of our profession, so that logistics and transport continue to propel national economic growth.

CILT’s profile and influence on evolving Brexit negotiating priorities has continued to increase. With a number of Brexit related Bills passing through Parliament, CILT has been working to influence and guide debate surrounding the impact of proposals on our sectors. In doing so, the Institute has held a number of high level roundtable meetings which explore the implications of Brexit on the sectors that CILT represents. 

Daniel Parker-Klein, Head of Policy, CILT, says: “Preparing for Brexit is key to the success of the UK’s freight sector. We have worked extensively to engage with Government officials to understand the threats and opportunities that will arise after Brexit. The Institute is clear that companies and government must plan and rehearse for a variety of scenarios in order not to risk economic damage during transition.”

CILT has been pleased to work with the Department for Transport (DfT) and other Government Departments in the greater good of the national interest. Our sectors are key to our citizens’ freedoms, security, and national prosperity – and frictionless borders are essential. All must now play their part; inaction simply is not an option, and the Institute is hoping for the profession to collaborate on creating the most effective and efficient solutions for our future outside the EU, as a significant global player.

The Institute has coined and long-championed that frictionless borders are crucial. The Government has stated that it is seeking ‘free flowing borders’ and that ‘liberalised access’ was being requested and offered by the UK. There is no doubt that excessive queues, delays in transit and extensive border checks will not help anybody and would especially hurt the consumer and economies, in all countries. 

CILT has requested that the Government provides clarity on plans and timelines to assist businesses in their contingency planning; as well as to conduct research and assess logistics capacity against the demands of the nation under different scenarios, so that major gaps, risks and the implications for private and public sector investment can be determined. This should include assessments on access to non-UK EU labour on which the profession is heavily dependent.

Kevin Richardson, Chief Executive, CILT, says: “It is imperative that we work together to get a solution that ensures that our supply chains continue to operate without friction. Although we should be prepared for a no deal scenario, CILT will continue to highlight the disruption that such a situation will present to both UK and EU businesses and societies.

“The Institute has been consistent in its advice to government through our Brexit roundtable meetings, Select Committee responses and our involvement in advisory groups. One area that we have been advocating is the importance of Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) accreditation as a means of supporting international supply chains in customs applications and processing.”

Currently, only 600 companies in the UK are AEO accredited compared to the 5,000 German operators. An alarming statistic that continues to demonstrate that UK supply chains simply are not ready. CILT remains concerned that British industry hasn’t grasped how essential this precondition is for frictionless trade and continue to implore that DfT and other government sectors to promote this.

The Institute is also concerned about the flow of perishable goods in a post-Brexit world. Of the 16,000 to 20,000 foreign trucks that operate within the UK at any one time, it is important that we understand and appreciate that somewhere between 30-50% of the goods movements through Dover are of food. One of CILT’s expectations is that if there are significant delays on the short sea crossing that traffic will switch to unaccompanied modes. If there are delays to the movement of food, for example, this poses a very significant threat to Dover, the Channel Tunnel and the wider supply chain. 

Despite the external appearance of disorder, chaos and fierce argument verging on political civil war, the Houses of Parliament have been examining every aspect of the changes that we are having to consider. Gradually, sensible considerations are emerging from the numerous committees studying different scenarios. If we can get an agreement that does not result in complete civil war within parliament, the two years set aside for detailed discussions on implementation may not be a difficult as might be thought.

All the work conducted by so many people, institutions and policy committees will not be wasted if the atmosphere can be converted to one of mutual co-operation. Our own work, so patiently undertaken over the past two years, is no exception. It has laid the groundwork for so many traders and operators in the supply chain to understand and plan for the inevitable changes to our trading methods, but above all to have confidence that we can collectively succeed in making ourselves an even more successful trading nation.

Whilst there remains considerable uncertainty over what the outcome may be, ranging from a trading agreement with liberalised market access and an implementation period, as envisaged by the Government’s Chequers position, to no deal. Against this background, many companies throughout the supply chain have indicated that their preparations for the change that will take place under different exit scenarios are still at a very preliminary stage. The consistent message at CILT’s round-table discussions is that they do not know what to prepare for.

For more information on the work of CILT’s Public Policy Committee and to view full reports of the Institute’s roundtable discussions with government, visit: ciltuk.org.uk/policy