Hauliers warn of 'significant gaps' in UK Brexit border plans

Out-Law News | 07 Sep 2020 | 9:12 am | 2 min. read

UK hauliers and logistics firms have called for an urgent meeting with the government, citing concerns over preparations for the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020.

Representatives of the Road Haulage Association (RHA), Logistics UK and six other trade bodies have written to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, chancellor Rishi Sunak and transport secretary Grant Shapps setting out their agenda for the meeting. Their letter (2-page / 204KB PDF) lists a number of concerns including IT and systems readiness, physical border infrastructure gaps and recruitment of and funding for agents and intermediaries for the new border control system.

The letter said: "As key participants in the supply chain who will be required to deliver a functional operating border for GB and EU traders next year, we have visibility of the current state of preparedness which as it stands has significant gaps".

"If these issues are not addressed […] UK business and the supply chain that we all rely so heavily on will be severely disrupted ... The Covid pandemic has demonstrated to both government and the general public the importance of a free-flowing supply chain and with transition occurring at the same time as a potential second Covid spike it is critical we ensure the supply chain is protected," it said.

Francis Clare

Clare Francis

Partner

The news of critical gaps in the border plans is unwelcome news for businesses, many of which are still rebuilding supply chains after the significant impact of Covid-19

The 'implementation period' set out in the withdrawal agreement governing the UK's departure from the EU ends on 31 December 2020. At this point, all existing trade arrangements between the UK and the EU will come to an end, while trade agreements between the EU and third countries will no longer apply to the UK.

If the UK and EU are unable to negotiate a new trading agreement before the implementation period ends, their trading relationship will revert to World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms at that point.

Brexit advisory expert Clare Francis of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: "With less than four months to go until the end of the transition period, the news of critical gaps in the border plans is unwelcome news for businesses, many of which are still rebuilding supply chains after the significant impact of Covid-19".

"Further disruption for critical supplies will be damaging for business, and even more so if it persists for a longer period due to systems not being ready or not being adequately tested. For manufacturers operating on a 'just-in-time' supply chain this is even more critical. Whilst all businesses can take steps to prepare now, the lack of certainty leaves precious little time for companies to adapt complex supply chains and processes," she said.

New regulations passed by the UK government last week grant emergency planning permission for temporary new border facilities in England, including lorry parks, inspection points and associated facilities. The regulations come into force on 24 September, and any new facilities can remain in place until the end of 2025.

The UK confirmed in July that it would introduce new border controls for imports from the EU on a three-stage phased basis, running until 1 July 2021. However, the EU is expected to impose full import controls on goods from Great Britain on 1 January 2021. These controls will not apply to imports from Northern Ireland, which is covered by a separate protocol to the withdrawal agreement.