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Brexit to break food supply chains on 1/1/21?

According to a BBC article (among others), road hauliers have warned the government that the UK is "sleepwalking into a disaster” at its borders come the end of the Brexit transition period at midnight on 31 December.

Rod McKenzie, from the Road Haulage Association (RHA), said the government should "act now before it's too late”, and groups representing transport operators have warned ministers of “severe” disruption to supply chains.

Deal or No-deal makes no diffs

Boris Johnson said the UK was "ready for any eventuality" after the transition period but the RHA begs to disagree, as Mr McKenzie told BBC News: "It is a real case of the government sleepwalking to a disaster with the border preparations that we have, whether it is a deal or no-deal Brexit at the end of December.” He went on to stress that for the UK to be plunged into a Brexit-related crisis, as it still struggles to cope with the fallout from the Covid-19 crisis, has all the hallmarks of a disaster in the making; in his words, "The difference here is between a disaster area and a disaster area with rocket boosters on.”

Eight logistics organisations, including the RHA and the Cold Chain Federation (CCF), wrote a letter (seen by Bloomberg) to the Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove in which they raised concerns over the readiness of IT systems, the funding to train customs agents and the pace of physical infrastructure being built.

While it is true that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he regularly met the RHA and had reassured them "planning for the end of the transition period hasn't stopped" during the coronavirus outbreak, it is also true that on BBC 4’s Today programme he conceded that the uncertain outcome of trade talks with the EU created "some uncertainty”. An understatement, IOO, if ever there was one.

Incoming OK, outgoing meh?

For the first 6 months of 2021, the government has taken the unprecedented step of giving businesses time to file their paperwork and pay the duties they owe after the goods have entered the UK. This should mitigate delays on goods entering the UK. However, for exporters the concern is greater as the EU has said it will impose its normal controls – and on the UK side, key systems to manage the flow of lorries at the UK border and make sure goods are cleared to proceed to the EU are not yet in place.

Shane Brennan, CEO of the CCF did acknowledge that the government was carrying out work on the necessary systems now but believed there was "no time to get these systems in place to actually do the job effectively”. He went on to tell BBC News, "The supply chain leaders will try to do everything they can to avoid shortages on the shelves, but at its worst, at the extreme, these sorts of situations will lead to food shortages.”

What is your experience preparing for import/export challenges on 1/1/21?

TradeScope is concerned that, apart from the obvious possibility of food shortages, businesses and jobs, already reeling from Covid-19 related challenges, will come under even more pressure as time goes on and uncertainty over a Brexit deal continues – with the increasing probability that Boris is wrong and that the UK is not "ready for any eventuality”. 

We'd love to hear from companies at the Brexit coalface as to how your preparations are going and whether you are indeed getting the help you need from government departments and websites. Boris has said, “... it is vital that people who have questions about what they need to do get onto our government websites … look at what they need to do to prepare, and certainly, we will help them.”

Are you being helped enough? What are your worries or concerns about your import/export business with Europe as we enter a brave new world? We’d love to chat. Contact Ted Horton here and let’s chew the fat (before they increase the duty on it...).


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