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Relief and optimism as UK and EU agree Brexit deal

24 December 2020

The EU and UK have reached a post-Brexit trade deal, which is expected to be ratified by the end of the year, by the UK parliament and across the EU.

The 2,000 page document is detailed and wide ranging, but industry have reacted to the news with relief and optimism.

“A deal is great news for the UK economy,” says Elizabeth de Jong, Logistics UK’s policy director, “since it removes the risk of tariffs being placed on almost every item imported from the EU, which would have raised prices and slowed the rate of economic growth. We are still absorbing all the details, but it looks as though HGVs will continue to have access to the EU market, and aircraft will still be permitted to fly to and from the EU, which safeguards the UK’s highly interconnected supply chains and protects the jobs of those charged with keeping the country stocked with the goods it needs.

“Meanwhile, Logistics UK is urging traders to continue to get ready for new trading conditions as they were before, as the new trading relationship will still require many of the same preparations, not least the introduction of customs declarations and additional checks on food and livestock. Logistics UK is advising traders not leave paperwork to the last minute, or ignore it, as this will cause delays to journeys.”

Cold Chain Federation chief executive Shane Brennan added: “Cold chain businesses will breathe a sigh of relief today. A deal avoids the certain collapse of key export markets and tariff related price inflation for thousands of food lines. Above all we hope it allows a spirit of collaboration in working out how the new systems, paperwork and border traffic flows will work.

“The thousands of Europeans currently stranded in Southern England are proof of the costs of not working together, and so we have to learn the lessons of the ongoing crisis as we implement this deal.

“The real implementation period for this deal starts now. Businesses must renegotiate commercial deals, rethink supply lines, retrain staff and restructure businesses.
“I know that in time our economy will thrive, because our great food, pharma and logistics businesses will make sure it does, but our food chain will be slower, more complex and more expensive for months if not years.

“Brexit is not done, the real work starts now.”

Key items the Cold Chain Federation will be looking at in the deal text include:
1. The Grace Period: an equivalent grace period for customs and SPS checks to that in place for EU to UK trade on UK to EU Trade - without this the short term disruption and adjustment will be significant.
2. Haulage
- reciprocal permanent permission to operate across borders for UK and EU hauliers
- recognition of professional competence for UK based haulage companies and haulage businesses
- rules on cabotage (reciprocal allowances for EU and UK haulage businesses to do not just import export transport, but in-country work)
- security related export declaration requirements
- recognition of vehicle insurance (green card)
3. Food Trade
- eradication of all tariffs
- statements on minimum or ongoing food standards equivalence, that could allow for potential easements on sanitary or photo sanitary requirements, especially in the most complex and most low risk areas like composite products (eg ready meals, biscuits)
- any special arrangements for fish trade using special import procedures linked to facilities in Boulogne
- agreements to allow ongoing trade in key areas like prohibited and restricted goods (like chilled meat currently subject to 6 month grace period in NI) to continue beyond the 6 month period