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Logistics industry reacts to dramatic Brexit vote

24 June 2016

As Britain voted to leave the European Union and PM David Cameron announced his resignation from office, Handling & Storage Solutions brings you reaction from the logistics industry.

Peter Ward, chief executive officer of the United Kingdom Warehousing Association (UKWA)

This morning, the world looks like a very different place. A vote to leave the EU was not what we – or most of the pundits - were expecting. Indeed, UKWA polls have consistently shown a clear preference among members to remain.

In my view, this momentous decision by the UK will have serious global implications, bringing new challenges for British businesses and particularly for those within our industry.

Many of our members trade across Europe and have enjoyed the benefits of ‘logistics sans frontiers’ for 40 years, with goods entering and leaving our country freely. My hope now is that as new trade agreements are forged, there is no return to red tape and complex customs regulations that prove burdensome and costly for UKWA members. 

As usual the devil is in the detail, and we will work hard on behalf of our members to ensure those negotiating Britain’s exit fully understand the ramifications.

On the positive side, we have for some time been talking about the new opportunities for British business emerging with the big super-powers in different parts of the world; already we are focusing on the tremendous potential in China – we have a UK-China Trade Mission planned for October and currently we’re running webinars for members and non-members to encourage and support them in exploring this exciting marketplace.

In summary, as the Prime Minister has said this morning, there is no going back. We must now hold our nerve and plan for the future, not take a small island introspective view, but instead look to claim our place on the global platform.

Freight Transport Association

Following the announcement of a ‘leave’ result in the EU referendum, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) says coming out of union risks new costs, restrictions and bureaucratic requirements being imposed on moving goods in and out of Europe.

These additional burdens could add costs for FTA members and disrupt the UK's supply chains. The Government has two years to negotiate the new rules – one example is the need for international road transport customs carnets, last used by the UK in 1992, which are required to allow goods to move under customs control across international borders.

FTA is calling on the Government to prioritise arrangements for international freight transport in its negotiations, minimising additional legislation and keeping costs as low as possible for British businesses.

FTA chief executive David Wells said: “Even though we are coming out of Europe politically, it remains our biggest export market and the supplier of a high proportion of our imports. We cannot allow new bureaucratic burdens to hamper the efficient movement of exports heading for customers and imported goods destined for British consumers."

FTA will be regularly updating its members on progress and pressing the Government to put freight transport at the top of the agenda.

Mr Wells said: “The Government has two years to ensure the conditions currently imposed on other non-EU member states such as Albania and Serbia are not imposed on UK freight flows. Norway and Switzerland have better arrangements but have accepted tough conditions including the free movement of people, so this will be a difficult negotiation.

"Britain may be out of Europe but it's not out of business and FTA will be leading the campaign on behalf of exporters and importers to keep trade procedures simple and the costs of international transport down.”

Mike Danby, CEO of Advanced Supply Chain

“Business is hard enough without unnecessary headwinds, and this is what the result has delivered. My primary concern as ever, is making sure we are prepared for the new trading environment this will deliver - we need to ensure our business and our people continue to thrive.

“Being part of the EU brought with it a collective power we needed to make international trade deals; Britain will now be a smaller international player, up against the US, EU and China in international negotiations. Even though we are a big economy, we’re not anywhere near close to the 500m population of the EU.

"The judgement has been made by, in my opinion, an electorate who were treated to a decidedly poor and untruthful (on both sides) electoral process.  But, we must be determined and resolute, and continue to grow our business at home and internationally. We have always embraced change and innovated to new reflect new demands on our business, and that will still be the case outside the EU."

Andrew Baxter, managing director of Europa Worldwide Group

"This is a great day for Britain. Even though the world does not yet seem to realise, Britain has just taken a step that will ultimately make it economically safer and more secure. The EU is on the wrong course. The Euro cannot work without a superstate, and a superstate will not work in practice. It's time for the EU to rethink its direction."

Kevin Buchanan, managing director of Pall-Ex Group

“As a business, we’ve always said that Britain is stronger in Europe. We’re saddened that the majority of people didn’t share our view.  

“We stand firm in our belief that the UK’s supply chain will be deeply affected by the referendum outcome, as it’s always relied on an efficient international logistics network. Jobs, trade and investment are all likely to be impacted. 

“As a country, we now enter a crucial period of negotiation regarding the terms of our exit. The Government has a tricky task ahead and we urge them to listen to the concerns of businesses across the country.  

“Like every other company, we must now take stock of what’s happened and ensure that processes are in place to lessen the inevitable impact. 

“Our number one priority has always been, and remains, our haulier members and customers. Over the coming months, we’ll be doing all we can to support them and ensure that, as much as possible, it remains business as usual.”

David Jinks MILT​, Head of Consumer Research, ParcelHero

"Many of ParcelHero’s SME business customers voted for Brexit and we understand entirely why they have done so. However, we are concerned for our customers about the possibility of increased costs in sending parcels to the EU and also receiving items from the Union.

"ParcelHero regularly ships to those countries that are in Europe but not in the EU, such as Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. Parcels sent to these countries face customs delays, red tape and tariffs of between 5-9% on average. We hope that the UK will not find itself with similar customs charges and paperwork. It is our hope that negotiations between the UK Government and Brussels will ensure that the EU will not impose new tariffs on British good shipped into the EU; and that similarly the UK Government will not seek to impose tit-for-tat tariffs in return.

"ParcelHero does not foresee any price rises for its popular EU services while the UK’s future relationship is hammered out; and it will seek to protect its customers from any increased costs in the long term. It’s very much business as usual and we trust that Britain will not face new trade tariffs and border delays following these negotiations; which would be very much against the interest of EU countries and businesses; as well as UK SMEs."

Phil Storer, UK country director for Pooling Partners, a European pallet manufacturer

“Businesses have never liked the portmanteaus or linguistic blend of words such as Brexit and Bremain.

“There are more poetic European words that reflect the reality. The Italians say Que Sera Sera while the French would say Cest Le Vie. Both mean the same things – life goes on and businesses are very much of that mind set as they continue to trade with their European partners, now and in the future.

“We are a pan-European company with operations right across the Continent including the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain and Poland, as well as our buoyant UK market,” said Storer, whose office is based in Meriden, West Midlands - close to Birmingham International Airport.

“We move hundreds of millions of products every year on our pallets and we pride ourselves on being close to our customers. This means we have a unique cross border perspective of the facts.

“If they had to blend two terms, firms have been business agnostic – or ‘Bragnostic’. Business requires economic stability to thrive. In the run up to the vote there was a lot of nervousness and now uncertainty continues to breed as the UK enters two years of protracted negotiations to unpick our European alignments as part of the ‘divorce’ settlement.

“As a European company with a strong foothold in the UK, we cannot afford to wait as we have customers to service here and in Europe.

“If there are financial consequences to our leaving, we will discuss those with our customers as and when we know, but for the time being it has to be business as usual."