Post Brexit challenges

With just weeks to go until the end of the transition period, Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett describes the challenges ahead and how the association can provide crucial guidance to international hauliers.

Ever since voters took the decision to leave the EU back in 2016, we have been lobbying, campaigning, and shouting to ensure that our industry gets the best possible deal post Brexit. Now, with fewer weeks until the end of the transition period, we’re still having meetings with government officials in an attempt to gain at least a partial degree of clarity.

I am sure readers are aware of the well-publicised meetings that I have had with the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove? I am certain that he and his team think of me as a thorn in their side. But if that means that the penny is finally dropping as regards their understanding of what we as an industry do, and of course need, then that’s what I’ll continue to be until we get clarity as to the way forward.

With so little time left, government are still saying ‘let’s wait and see what deal we get.’ This is creating even more confusion. Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps himself said ‘plan for the worst and hope for the best.’ What sort of message is that to send out? Regardless of the result, the paperwork will still need to be completed. One of our major concerns is that despite hauliers having to provide the full service of customs declarations, based on current figures, there will be a significant shortfall of customs agents.

I’m sure that many readers will be familiar with the saying. “If you want something doing, then do it yourself”? Well, such is our concern at the lack of understanding from government, especially regarding the shortage of 50,000 customs agents, that we are going to do all we can to help our members and the industry. Currently, non-EU member states alone account for 50m transactions each year. In the UK there are believed to be in the region of 5,000 trained customs agents that handle the required customs declarations for these transactions.

Richard Burnett is chief executive of the Road Haulage Association

Next year UK firms will have to do another 220m declarations, hence the additional 50,000 intermediaries. We’re very aware that our sector needs guidance and what this means to its business. Our team of experts have many years’ experience of working with haulage and logistics businesses and can offer in-depth advice based on the latest information from government.

We have the information that members will need to prepare their clients and traders to remain compliant, reduce their business risks, and keep goods moving through January and beyond. The government is now ramping up its communications to get industry as ready as possible for the end of transition – though by their own admission there will be delays at borders as firms get to grips with a slew of new processes and systems.

In the meantime, the additional 50,000 brokers needed won’t suddenly materialise overnight. Suitable candidates need to be recruited and then trained – it’ll be a long process and time has already run out to get them all in place.

We carried out an extensive industry survey and more than 63% of operators said they’re unprepared for the customs changes. So we’ve stepped up our own communications campaign which is now linked with a customs brokerage service we’ve launched, guiding firms with all the things they can do to get ready whilst the government’s plugging its own gaps; ECMT permits, EORI numbers, etc.

Key for us is hauliers passing the message on to the traders they work with. It’s vital we do all we can to mitigate the worst predictions as we all get used to completely new ways of doing things.


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