Brexit: Act now on recruitment and immigration warn trade associations

London, UK: Trade associations are highlighting concerns over the government’s post-Brexit plans, despite the industry’s current focus on the coronavirus.

The prime minister is still sticking to the official line of “no extension to the transition period”.

A massive custom agent shortage, the government’s post-Brexit immigration policy and the need for connectivity with Europe are just three issues that the trade associations have pinpointed as crucial to address.

For example, the Road Haulage Association has urged the government to help with customs agents recruitment and training, pointing out that industry would need 50,000 more customs agents to process the extra paperwork after the Brexit transition period.

Rod McKenzie, the managing director of policy and public affairs at the RHA, said: “We have been told by a large freight company expert in the field that they get a productivity of around 4,000 clearances a year per staff member (that is about 20 clearances a day). That makes sense given the complexity of many transactions. Worth noting, that is with skilled, trained, experienced labour.

“So if we are dealing with 200m extra declarations, at a productivity rate of 4,000 per year that equals 50,000 staff needed on day one, and probably more.”

Meanwhile the government’s new post-Brexit immigration policy has been labelled as “detrimental” to the logistics sector by the Freight Transport Association.

From 1 January 2021, freedom of movement for European Union citizens in the UK will end. A points-based immigration system will grant immigration status based on an appropriate job offer, English language skills, and a salary threshold of £25,600.

Sally Gilson, head of skills policy at FTA, said: “The UK economy simply cannot operate without the logistics workforce. The sector is already facing a severe labour shortage – 64% of transport and storage businesses are now struggling to fill vacancies.

“FTA is also appalled that the government has deemed HGV driving – along with many other logistics occupations – to be ‘low skilled’ activities; these are, in fact, very challenging roles. Vocational occupations make a significant contribution to the UK economy.”

FTA’s other priorities for the UK’s negotiators include:
• Mitigate risk of disruption to the borders
• Reduce the need for physical checks – any which are required should take place away from the border 
• Clarification on what procedures and processes will be used to cross borders
• Provide sufficient co-funded training for those new to completing customs declarations, as well as for those handling a significant increase in declarations and other new administrative requirements
• Formally agree existing arrangements for road, air, sea and rail connectivity
• Protect the ability of UK workers to cross borders easily

Pauline Bastidon, FTA’s head of European policy, stressed that, while the clock keeps ticking, logistics needs connectivity with Europe, clear answers and support to prepare for the post-transition era and new requirements coming at the end of the year.

“Without an agreement on transport, at the end of the transition period we would face heavy restrictions on logistics movements, with only a very limited number of permits to access the EU market, serving less than 5% of the traffic across the Channel, available to operators under ECMT rules,” said Bastidon.

“An agreement for transport is not a luxury, it’s absolutely vital, and we call on negotiators to prioritise it in the negotiations on the future relationship to avoid a cliff edge.”

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