As Brexit negotiations get under way in earnest in Brussels, FTA, the business organisation which represents the logistics industry, is reminding UK and EU negotiators to prioritise agreements on connectivity for transport. While these decisions may seem trivial to observers, as Pauline Bastidon, FTA’s head of European policy, explains, overlooking them could lead to rifts in the UK’s highly complex and interconnected supply chain which would be disastrous for business and industry.
“FTA’s member businesses are responsible for keeping the UK’s businesses, industry, homes and schools stocked with the vital products they need to function,” she says. “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. Airfreight links would also be severely curtailed unless an agreement is prioritised in negotiations.
“Our members expect significant changes at the end of the transition period, based on the UK and EU negotiating priorities, and are doing all they can to prepare for these, within the limits of available information. Yet, in spite of their willingness to adapt, logistics businesses are totally reliant on an agreement being reached at the negotiating table. Without protections for road freight, rail freight and aviation, our members and their EU peers will simply not be able to operate across borders without drastic restrictions. 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.”
As Bastidon continues, there is also an urgent need for clarification on how borders will operate, and the systems to be used, to ensure that businesses have time to prepare themselves for new operating procedures and that systems may be tested before adoption:
She says: “For the goods themselves, given the respective red lines and priorities on both sides, our expectations are that there will be little practical difference between an agreement and no agreement, beyond tariffs and some potential and welcome simplifications for sanitary and phytosanitary requirements. While this extra level of trade friction is disappointing in itself, knowing and understanding the new broad requirements is not enough for business to prepare adequately.”