FTA: Customs union will not deliver frictionless trade


As the UK House of Commons prepares to vote on a motion on Customs and borders today, the UK’s logistics industry is reminding lawmakers that forming a Customs union with the European Union (EU) would not remove the need for checks at the borders or deliver frictionless arrangements on its own. That is the claim of trade body the Freight Transport Association (FTA).

The need to protect transport connectivity after Brexit must also be considered.
“Leaving the EU Customs union and single market has big consequences for supply chains and the continuity of the UK’s European trade,” says FTA deputy chief executive James Hookham.  “If the Government remains fixed on this course, then it must prioritise sorting out the potential ‘showstoppers’ that will kick in on Day One of Brexit.

“Leaving the Customs union is only one part of the story, and a customs union on its own would not remove the need for checks at the borders or provide frictionless trade for businesses.”

While leaving the Customs Union will lengthen transit times in terms of border checks, and add “red tape” in terms of customs formalities for traders, leaving the European single market could have an even greater impact on trade, with border controls and regulatory barriers being forced on importers and exporters.

“The political agreement to a transition period has been welcomed by the industry, which has been arguing the need for such an interim arrangement since before article 50 was even triggered,” says Hookham.  “The logistics sector is confident that frictionless trading arrangements and continued access to the benefits of EU agreements during this time will help to smooth trading conditions while new processes are embedded and learned.

However, 21 months is an incredibly short amount of time to do this, and urgent action is needed so that trade can continue to flow seamlessly between the UK and the EU as of 2021.

“FTA has identified eight urgent points where clarification and action are needed, either by the UK Government alone, or by negotiators on both sides.”