Industry rejects government Brexit blame game

London, UK: Hauliers have reacted angrily to government attempts to deflect blame onto the industry for Brexit failures.

Responding to a letter sent by Michael Gove, the minister in charge of Brexit preparations, Logistics UK, Elizabeth de Jong, policy director, Logistics UK, said: “It is also incumbent on government to ensure logistics businesses have details of and access to the UK’s own logistics systems, including Smart Freight and GVMS, in good time so that adequate training and testing can be carried out.”

Shane Brennan, chief executive, Cold Chain Federation, said: “There is an awareness problem about what’s coming among hauliers, but its root is in: (a) the mixed messages from the same ministers who for 3 years plus promised frictonless; b) being been burned by two previous false no deals and; (c) IT and processes that are still not ready.”

Robert Keen, director general, British International Freight Association said: “With just over 14 weeks to go before the end of the Brexit Transition Period, traders and logistics providers are still waiting for so much information and clarity from the government and are shocked by the lack of consistency in Government policy, systems planning and procedures.

Government making villains of the key workers who have been tackling the impact of the pandemic on the UK’s supply chains will not succeed, he said.

“According to the media coverage, Mr Gove says it is essential that traders act now and get ready for new formalities. BIFA says give our members all the information they need, the resources they require and systems that actually work, and they will be more than able to do what is necessary. But don’t start pointing the finger of blame in our direction when you have still to provide all of the tools to do the job.”

Simon Sutcliffe, partner at tax and advisory firm Blick Rothenberg said: “It’s all very well for Michael Gove to say that unless the hauliers get their paperwork in order there will be huge delays and confusion at UK ports, but the government have still not put the electronic systems that they promised in place.  
 
“The EU is not reciprocating in the UK government’s initiative to offer UK importers the chance to defer full import entries and defer customs duty payments for up to 6 months for some goods from 1st January 2021.

“This means that EU border agencies will expect to see full customs entries and export declarations being presented even in the event of some free trade deal being agreed before the end of transition.”

“Hauliers will be required to carry accurate and completed export declarations to allow them to both leave the UK and the enter the EU from 1st January such as export licences, the road consignment note, any movement reference numbers, and any carnets that maybe required.

“This is in addition to the documents that the driver has to carry about the vehicle such as registration, insurance and security. A lot of responsibility has now been filtered down to the haulier and driver.”

“The government has instigated the Smart Freight System which makes hauliers confirm that they have completed and submitted all the necessary customs documentation and have the required movement refence numbers before they set off for the port. However, hauliers are also reliant on the exporter to ensure that it has fulfilled its obligations, and this requires a degree of integration,” Sutcliffe said.

“What they don’t know is how the government’s electronic system that promised to generate various vehicle and movement numbers will operate in practice. These numbers demonstrate to the border officials where in the customs clearance chain that particular load is situated.  Having all the necessary documentation in place with the correct movement and load reference numbers is vital if the EU border authorities are to police the border as stringently as we believe they might.”
 
“There needs to be some joined up thinking and information so that hauliers and exporters know exactly what procedure they have to follow and in what order. What they have to do and how these systems up and running, stress-tested and fully operational well before the end of the year. Only then can the hauliers present their full paperwork and feel comfortable that they are doing the right thing and avoid queues at Dover and other ports,” Sutcliffe said.

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