‘Chequers agreement’ last weekend ‘contained encouraging markers’ for logistics sector, but businesses now need action, not words, says FTA.
After a week of frenetic Brexit-related political developments in the UK and some “encouraging” signs, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) is urging politicians to refocus on the needs of business if Brexit is to be a success for the UK economy.
FTA said the so-called ‘Chequers agreement’ last weekend, in which the UK government reached an agreement on the UK’s future relationship with the EU after Brexit, “contained encouraging markers”, but warned that businesses now “needs action, not words”, to make the UK’s withdrawal from the EU a success.
Highlights of the Chequers agreement included an agreement that the UK will “maintain a common rulebook for all goods” with the EU, including agricultural products, after Brexit. And a treaty will be signed committing the UK to “continued harmonisation” with EU rules – avoiding friction at the UK-EU border, including Northern Ireland.
In a brief publication following last weekend’s meeting, ahead of the publication on Thursday of a more-detailed government Brexit White Paper, the UK government said it will propose that “the UK and the EU would work together on the phased introduction of a new Facilitated Customs Arrangement that would remove the need for customs checks and controls between the UK and the EU as if a combined customs territory”.
It said its proposed model would “ensure that the UK and the EU have frictionless access to each other’s markets for goods, including agricultural, food and fisheries products, protecting the uniquely integrated supply chains and just-in-time processes that have developed across the UK and the EU over the last 40 years, and the jobs and livelihoods dependent on them.
FTA called on all sides to ensure that the final agreement will ensure that British business can continue to trade efficiently with its continental neighbours once the UK leaves the EU.
“The time for talk is definitely over,” said James Hookham, deputy chief executive of FTA. “Businesses urgently need a confirmed action plan for how a smooth and efficient Brexit is to be achieved, without the constant political posturing and power grabbing which has dominated the past few days.
“Now is the time for positive moves to enable logistics businesses to plan, prepare and adapt successfully to new trading conditions after March 2019.
“Retail, manufacturing and other business sectors rely on next-day deliveries to keep production lines moving, shop shelves stocked and customers satisfied. The Chequers agreement contained encouraging markers towards a sustainable logistics industry in the future, but we would urge all those involved in debating the White Paper to put the needs of business at the forefront of their considerations as voting begins. Without that, British businesses could find life increasingly difficult as the UK leaves the EU next March.”
Despite much talk around the topic in recent weeks, FTA remained concerned that “businesses could still be faced with the risk of a highly disruptive ‘no deal’ scenario, which could destroy the efficient UK-Europe supply chain which keeps our shops and businesses stocked and running. Politicians owe it to companies to provide them with a workable White Paper that will allow positive plans to be made, to protect both trade and the millions of jobs involved in an efficient logistics industry. Political posturing is no substitute for commercial confidence.”
FTA is once again calling the attention of politicians to its eight-point roadmap, designed to ensure that the UK’s departure from the European Union does not compromise or curtail trade across the Channel.
“We have all been very patient, but it is now time for politicians to shut up and show us how committed they are to ensuring secure trading relationships in the future,” said Hookham. “Logistics is, by its very nature, flexible and adaptable to change, but there are certain areas requiring immediate attention which we need to see confirmed in the White Paper, if Britain’s trading routes are to continue to flourish.”
FTA’s eight-point Brexit plan, formulated from the opinions of the association’s 17,000 member organisations, outlines what needs to be agreed and put in place to keep Britain and the EU trading together and to protect deeply integrated supply chains.
“Time is very short if Brexit is to be a success for the UK – we have little time left in which to achieve a huge amount,” Hookham noted. “The logistics industry wants to ensure that trade continues to flow freely throughout the UK and across its borders, but without the clarity on key issues including employment status for EU nationals and tariffs and permits for goods and vehicles, the past two years of negotiation could come to nothing.
“On behalf of one of the UK’s unsung ‘hero’ industry sectors, FTA is urging government to keep Britain trading by adopting the recommendations of the logistics industry in its White Paper – or else risk the continued success of the UK’s economy.”