The British International Freight Association (BIFA) says that whilst Prime Minister Theresa May’s much anticipated speech today has delivered some clarity on the UK’s plans to leave the European Union’s single market, it remains short on the details that will assist its members as they go about their business of managing much of the UK’s visible international trade.
“Our members across the country over the last few months have been dealing with a lot of uncertainty,” said Robert Keen, director general of BIFA, the representative body for UK freight forwarding companies. “They would have welcomed clarity on the mechanics that will underpin Mrs May’s desire for ‘tariff-free and frictionless trade’.
“Today, Theresa May has promised to take Britain out of the EU single market and pledged to seek a ‘bold and ambitious’ trade agreement with the bloc. The prime minister said that she wanted ‘an ambitious customs agreement with the EU’ while rejecting the Customs Union because of the common external tariff that prevents Britain from negotiating separate trade deals with third countries.
“As we said last year, as Brexit unfolds, there will many issues affecting visible trade and the work of our members who facilitate that trade. After today’s speech, BIFA is hoping that the government has a fundamental understanding of all of the possible permutations and challenges in regards to our future trading relationships with Europe and the rest of the world, post membership of the EU.
“Freight forwarding executives are none the wiser on the actual mechanics of Britain’s future trading relationships and how they might affect the freight forwarding sector. Will Customs reintroduce EU transaction border controls? Will the replacement for CHIEF go ahead and will the new system be able to handle the millions of extra transactions? How will controls on dual use items be managed?
“Mrs May has made reference to maintaining the common travel arrangements between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, but how will freight be managed between the two countries?
“What our members need from Government is some answers to those questions. As the old saying goes, the devil is in the details. And after today’s much anticipated speech, much of the real detail is missing.”