UK government stance angers logistics companies

Logistics companies say Brexit issues stem from lack of government information in the face of letter from Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove

A leaked letter, seen by The Loadstar, from UK Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has caused uproar amongst logistics companies by appearing to blame them for being unprepared for new customs arrangements.

The industry has repeatedly said a lack of relevant information and guidance from government is preventing companies planning properly for the end of the Brexit transition period but Gove wrote:“The period of disruption for the reasonable worse-case scenario is predicated on assumptions for how traders and hauliers would respond to this scenario. It assumes the volume of unready HGVs travelling to the border following 1 January 2021 will decrease over time as traders and hauliers change their behaviours upon encountering new border control and having goods or HGVs stopped or seized as a result of being non-compliant.

“While the assumption is that the risk of long queues and a constraint to flow caused by unready HGVs would diminish in the first three months, the actual flow of goods would depend on the length of time it takes for those exporting/ importing businesses that were not ready on 1 January to get ready for new requirements.”

BIFA director general Robert Keen said companies are still waiting for clarity on a number of issues and have been repeatedly shocked by the lack of consistency in government policy, procedures and systems planning. Keen says that if logistics companies are provided with the necessary information and “systems that actually work”, they will be able to make the transition.

Elizabeth de Jong, head of policy for Logistics UK said the government has had numerous warnings about potential border delays once the UK leaves the EU but the issues could not be resolved unless logistics businesses have access to systems such as Smart Freight and GVMS in good time. She estimates that 30-40% of logistics companies were not able to prepare properly because they lacked the necessary information.

Mr Gove’s letter has suggested that queues of up to 7,000 trucks could be seen in Kent with two-day delays possible in a worst-case scenario.

The port of Dover has still not received its Wharf Approval which is required for ports handling international goods. Funding for some of the necessary infrastructure projects has still not been released. Tm Reardon, head of UK exit for the port of Dover, has said that the single site identified by the government for lorries without correct documentation will be insufficient and that more sites would be needed.

Problems associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the issues and could continue to do so as businesses and Customs faced staff shortages and problems associated with social distancing measures.

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