As one of the industry trade associations leading the call for Government to heed warnings of potential chaos within supply chains as the impacts of the Trade Agreement and the scheduled introduction of further border controls looked set to coincide with the PM’s road-map for lifting lockdown restrictions, UKWA has been quick to welcome the announcement of an extended timescale by Rt Hon Michael Gove MP.
Retailers – and their 3PLs – are bracing themselves for a ‘big bang’ as pent-up consumer demand is released from April, so the delay of additional bureaucracy at the border is surely good news. However, simply extending the timeframe is not enough. The Government must do more. There is, for example, still a huge job to do in digitizing manual procedures, which were barely fit for purpose before, but now must be sufficiently robust to cope with multiple millions of extra movements to and from the EU. There is still too a shortage of trained individuals to manage the new systems. Labour shortages, along with training and education remain critical issues.
More joined-up thinking is needed from the Government and a broader vision. Currently, post-Brexit planning appears fragmented, with knee-jerk responses and a siloed approach, rather than a well-thought out collaborative strategy developed in close consultation with businesses at the ‘sharp end’.
We are still struggling to understand how the Freeports initiative fits with our industry’s needs and what of the Government’s ambitious plans for investment in port infrastructure? For some time, UKWA has been pointing out the potential to optimise existing inland infrastructure to create new Border Inspection Posts and save taxpayers’ money.
Accordingly, UKWA and our peer organisations will continue to push for a meeting with Michael Gove and other heads of Government departments, to explore how best private industry can contribute to meaningful, workable and cost-effective solutions to meet the challenges of the post-Brexit world.
‘2025 UK Border Strategy’, a document presented to Parliament by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and other cabinet ministers, commits to ‘develop a co-ordinated, user-centric Government approach to border design and delivery, which works in partnership with industry’.
While this is a positive message, we urge the Government to listen, take advice from those who understand the complexities from a supply chain and logistics perspective, and proactively engage with the sector. Further, we look for a broader, more cohesive vision, starting right now.
In the meantime, we stand ready, along with our colleagues to play our part in supporting Government to ensure that post-Brexit strategy – not just border control – is implemented successfully, with minimum disruption to business or risk to employment.