Call for trade and logistics to be priorities as Brexit talks start

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The UK and the European Union (EU) are set to start negotiating the former’s exit from the EU today and the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has repeated its calls for logistics and trade to be priorities.

The association wants the Government to keep an open mind in the talks to ensure freight can continue to move freely throughout Europe.

The FTA says the logistics industry contributes over £121 billion gross value added to the economy every year and employs 2.54 million people in the UK, 11 per cent of whom are non-UK EU nationals, while logistics is an enabler, making both international trade and local deliveries possible.

PM Theresa May has indicated the UK will leave the EU without a deal if it cannot reach a suitable agreement within the two-year timeline, particularly on new trade arrangements, which would include leaving the Customs Union and EU Single Market.

However, she failed to gain a significant mandate in the general election after failing to secure a majority and some cabinet members are calling for a so-called soft Brexit.

FTA has warned any delays at the border – especially around major transport modes such as ports – and additional red tape will jeopardise freight operations, especially those handling time-sensitive and perishable goods, and are likely to add costs which will filter down to the consumer.

FTA head of European policy, Pauline Bastidon (pictured above) says: “The Government must not underestimate the impact of Brexit on the industry if not managed carefully. Businesses run on predictability – anything that causes uncertainty creates problems in terms of operating, costing and forward planning. Leaving the EU without a deal and an agreement on a transitional period would be the worst possible scenario.

“We need clarity at the earliest possible opportunity, together with a sensible period of transition and implementation to allow time for businesses and authorities alike to adjust to new arrangements.

“As negotiations are about to start, we are urging Government to keep these important principles in mind and adopt a pragmatic approach when negotiating with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his team.”

FTA’s Brexit Manifesto highlights key ‘asks’  in the negotiation process including the ability to retain EU workers, seamless access to the EU market for goods and transport services, and free movement of goods across the Irish border.

Bastidon adds the FTA has asked the Government to keep an open mind on solutions needed for the post-Brexit period and to reconsider its position on a Customs Union with the EU.