The UK government’s White Papers on future trading and customs relationships with Europe fail to clarify how so-called frictionless trade can be made possible after the UK leaves the European Union, says Freight Transport Association Ireland, the most active membership association representing the Irish logistics industry. On behalf of its members, FTAI is urging the UK and European negotiating teams to now make trade a very real priority, to ensure that a transition period can be arranged to ease trading relationships post-Brexit.
“The UK government is keen to stress its intention to establish economic and security co-operation in a ‘rules-based trading environment’, but has yet to start the discussions with the EU on how this situation can be achieved,” says Aidan Flynn, General Manager of FTAI. “Negotiations between the two parties are now reaching a time-critical stage if trading relationships are to be protected, and business to continue seamlessly once the UK leaves the EU, yet discussions on trade are yet to start. The Irish logistics sector will need time to ensure that the nation’s trade routes remain open and the economy buoyant from October 2018 and to ignore the needs of such a vital sector at this point in the proceedings is to leave businesses exposed to a host of potential supply and stocking issues.
“Ireland has annual trade with the UK worth €35 billion to consider – it is imperative that the Minister for Transport now starts to act on behalf of the nation to protect this vital economic contributor. Changes cannot be made overnight, and Brexit will have seismic implications for the whole supply chain, and the nation’s economy as a whole, if adequate time has not been allowed for planning and implementation of new policies.
“On ‘Brexit Day’, Ireland deserves to be in a position to move goods into and out of the UK and Northern Ireland, to ensure the nation’s continued prosperity, but this will not happen if we have no engagement with government. FTA Ireland has called consistently for a Minister for Logistics to be appointed – with the nation ‘sleep walking’ towards the ‘cliff edge’ of a so-called Hard Brexit, it is now time for ministers to wake up and consider what this will mean for business across the country.”
According to the UK government’s latest White Papers, schemes such as the Approved Economic Operator (AEO) accreditation programme will be vital to ensure a minimum level of bureaucracy needs to be introduced at the border. However, with just over 120 companies registered to the scheme, delays and issues are bound to occur unless the Irish government steps in: “AEO accreditation takes time to achieve – up to six months and often longer,” continues Flynn, “and if schemes of this type are made mandatory for those wishing to trade with the UK, the clock is most definitely ticking. It is beholden on the Irish government to provide funding and support to the logistics industry, to upskill workers to the levels to enable quick adoption of new working practices. The time for waiting is most definitely over: Irish consumers and businesses deserve and need supply chain issues to be at the negotiating table now.”