The UK freight and logistics sector could grind to a halt without workers from the European Union (EU), the Freight Transport Association (FTA) warns.
It says EU workers account for 13 per cent of HGV drivers and 26 per cent of warehouse operatives, and with 2.54 million people working in the UK logistics sector, removing this proportion would have a disastrous effect on the UK’s economy.
The UK government’s policy paper released on 26 June provided a starting point for the rights of these workers to live and work in the UK after Brexit, but the FTA is calling for urgent clarification on the timing involved of new workers’ rights.
The FTA is also petitioning the government to ensure that the application process for EU citizens is as seamless as possible and prevent a lack of available skilled staff leading to avoidable delays in service.
FTA head of European policy, Pauline Bastidon says: “The Government’s announcement on the rights of EU workers to remain and work in the UK is a welcome first step in enabling businesses to plan and manage their workforces.”
“But there is still much to be done to ensure that logistics companies are not left stranded, without the skilled workforce required to keep Britain’s trade moving nationwide, and across borders to other nations.”
She says EU workers are essential for the UK logistics industry, and with insufficient home grown workers available, the government needs to think about how vacancies could be filled in the short and long term.
The government proposes workers who have lived continuously in the UK for five years will be able to apply to stay indefinitely through ‘settled status’, but clarification is needed for the ‘cut off’ date for arrivals to the country, and the lack of information could have a significant impact on British business’ ability to trade efficiently in the coming months and years.
Bastidon says the logistics industry needs to employ the best candidates while it trains up the next generation of employees and the government needs to ensure trading routes do not grind to a halt.
She says: “The Government must ensure that its post-Brexit immigration policy takes into account the needs of crucial industries such as logistics, and provide as much clarity as possible, as early as it is feasible, to allow industry to plan ahead and adapt.”
“This advanced notice is vital to ensure that British business can keep moving, both in the UK and overseas.”