Logistics UK concerned about reports that the UK government may jeopardise British business’ ability to keep Britain trading by negating key elements of the EU Withdrawal Agreement.
The UK government today claimed that it remains committed to its previous commitments with the EU regarding customs and border arrangements with Northern Ireland, downplaying suggestions that planned new legislation unveiled today could override a key part of last year’s withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU.
The UK insisted that the planned new legislation was a standby plan in case EU-UK trade talks fail. Although the UK formally left the EU in January, it has continued to follow rules set in Brussels during a transition period – which ends on 31 December – while discussions over a long-term trade agreement continue.
Another round of talks begins tomorrow, aimed at securing a deal to allow companies to trade without tariffs or overburdensome customs checks. But in the meantime, UK government sources have said the UK will publish an ‘Internal Market Bill’ on Wednesday, which is said to be designed to protect trade arrangements between the four parts of the UK after the end of the Transition Period.
But there are concerns that it could contradict the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol within the withdrawal agreement, set up to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. The protocol says Northern Ireland will follow some EU customs rules – meaning customs declarations for goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, as well as some new checks on goods going from Great Britain into Northern Ireland – after the transition period.
Some believe the legislation could undermine the current trade talks between the UK and the EU.
Alex Veitch, general manager of public policy at Logistics UK, commented: “Logistics UK is concerned about reports that the UK government may jeopardise British business’ ability to Keep Britain trading by negating key elements of the EU Withdrawal Agreement, which could put any further negotiations with the European Union at risk. With only 16 weeks remaining until the end of the transition period for the UK’s departure from the EU, this would have severe consequences for UK supply chains, leaving very limited time for the logistics industry to react and prepare to new trading conditions, especially as the industry is approaching its Christmas trading peak.
“Logistics UK, as the business group representing the sector which supports every area of the economy, is adamant that a free trade agreement should still be the priority for negotiators to ensure that the movement of goods to and from Europe can continue with as few limitations as possible, to keep Britain trading effectively with its closest and largest trading partners.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that she “trusts the UK government to implement the Withdrawal Agreement, an obligation under international law and prerequisite for any future partnership”. She added that the Northern Ireland Protocol was “essential to protect peace and stability on the island and integrity of the single market”.