Brexit white paper: concerns remain

London, UK: Industry has reacted positively to the white paper outlining the government’s intended future relationship between the UK and European Union after Brexit.

The Freight Transport Association’s deputy chief executive, James Hookham, said that the solutions outlined in the paper “offer encouragement for those tasked with keeping the nation’s complex supply chain moving freely, but will require a similar level of imagination and optimism from the UK’s European trading partners”.

However, he warned that there are still areas of concern which will need urgent attention if trading between the UK and the EU is to continue to operate with minimal disruption: “While FTA recognises the efforts made by the government to address the needs of the logistics industry in today’s document, there is still much we need to understand on the practicalities for future trade.

“Of most concern is a lack of clarity over how road transport will be able to operate in the future – a permits system is mentioned in passing, but is really not an option if the thousands of vehicle movements which currently happen to and from the Continent and Ireland are to continue with minimal delays. There is no point in having the most facilitated customs agreement in the world if a permits quota means that trucks cannot move goods freely across borders.

“The paper needs to provide more clarity on the status of skilled EU workers after Brexit – with more than 45,000 HGV drivers from Europe currently working in the UK, loss of their working status would leave the industry severely exposed. The framework for the mobility of workers between the UK and EU needs more detailed explanation, to provide reassurance to employers and those relying on continuity of deliveries for the resilience of their own businesses.”

Peter Ward, chief executive, UK Warehousing Association, said: “The government has published its Brexit White Paper, following last week’s cabinet meeting at Chequers. UKWA welcomes some of the content relating to plans for a facilitated customs arrangement (FCA), in so far that it responds to the call from business for minimal disruption to the free flow of goods between the UK and EU member states.”

“It is pleasing that, unlike some other members of her party, Prime Minister May appears to be living in the real world and has listened to the needs of the business community. Since the referendum result was announced more than two years ago, UKWA has stressed the need to retain ‘frictionless trade’ with the EU and it appears from today’s document that the Government is attempting to avert any major upheaval in the way goods are traded between the EU and the UK.”

“It remains to be seen however, whether this White Paper is a fanciful wish list aimed primarily at uniting a divided government, that will gain firstly the wider support of parliament, the country, and ultimately Brussels, or whether indeed it is purely a starting point for negotiation.”

“Representing an industry that relies heavily on the contribution of European workers, and already facing an acute labour shortage, it is disappointing for UKWA that the White Paper appears somewhat vague on the UK’s post-Brexit immigration policy. Whilst emphasising repeatedly that the free movement of people will come to an end, The White Paper says the detail of a new immigration policy will be published in a separate paper later this year.”

“UKWA will continue to drive the essential, practical and consultative dialogue between the logistics industry and those influencing the policies that will affect the country for many years to come.”

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