During Government talks with Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, hauliers were not assured that the transition was “going to be smooth” for the freight industry. The meeting on Brexit preparedness, described as a “washout”, was organised by Road Haulage Association (RHA) boss Richard Burnett who said it “fell far short of expectations”.
The RHA argues there has been “no clarity” from Michael Gove on how border checks will operate after the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.
It also fears custom checks will cause chaos in the country’s ports.
It comes after the EU warned trade talks could be suspended if the UK uses domestic legislation to override the original exit deal.
Richard Burnett, chief executive of the RHA, added: “Although I don’t think we’re quite back at square one, we’re certainly not much further ahead”.
“The mutually effective co-operation we wanted to ensure seamless border crossings just didn’t happen and there is still no clarity over the questions that we have raised.
“With only 75 working days of the transition period left, we shall continue to work relentlessly on behalf of our members and the rest of the haulage logistics industry for whom the success of these negotiations have become a matter of make or break.”
From January 1 2021, customs declarations would be required for both imports and exports to and from the EU.
Duties would also be payable on imports under a new UK Global Tariff where people who are importing goods would need to declare the customs value of the goods and where they are from.
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However, Whitehall has made clear it would be possible to defer customs declarations by up to six months on standard goods meaning payments can be deferred until such a time that the declarations are made.
Goods being imported from the EU would also be subject to VAT and importers would need to account for this.
Shane Brennan, chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation, said: “There is no point pretending it’s going to be smooth – we are heading for major delays and disruption – systems are not ready, processes are unclear, awareness of what will be required is low across the industry.”
“We will need calm heads and a willingness from customs, food and security officials (on the UK and EU side) to make sensible, pragmatic decisions, probably throughout 2021 as systems bed down and new ways of working emerge.”
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Meanwhile, Logistics UK, formerly the Freight Transport Association, warned businesses about a “massive blow” after discovering that the Government’s Smart Freight System, which is designed to reduce cargo delays after Brexit, will still be in testing mode after the transition period ends on January 1 2021.
In response to the concerns, the Government promised to “intensify” talks with the industry after yesterday’s talks.
A Cabinet Office spokeswoman, who described the meeting as “constructive” said: “Government will continue to intensify engagement with industry in the weeks ahead so we can hit the ground running on January 1, 2021, and seize new opportunities.
“To help businesses prepare, we have launched a major communications campaign in the UK and EU, committed to investing £705 million in jobs, infrastructure and technology at the border and provided an £84 million support package to boost the capacity of the customs intermediary sector.”
Data from the Port of Dover, a vital point of entry for billions of goods from the EU, shows that nearly 2.4 million road haulage vehicles passed through the port last year, meaning an average of over 6,500 vehicles per day.
In a bid to help with port delays, Kent Police and the Port of Dover have activated a controversial Operation Stack in which M20 motorway is used as a temporary parking lot for lorries.
The “emergency measure”, which closes parts of the motorway, is designed to prevent gridlock on Kent’s road network.
The operation led to miles-long queues on route to the port yesterday.