Brexit: ‘Significant gaps’ in UK’s border plans as haulage bosses demand ‘urgent’ meeting with government

Haulage bosses have called for an urgent meeting with cabinet ministers over concerns about “significant gaps” in the UK’s Brexit border preparations.

Eight logistics organisations have written to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove warning that the UK-EU supply chain “will be severely disrupted” from January, if issues are not resolved by the end of the Brexit transition period.

Areas of concern include IT systems and physical border infrastructure.

The letter states: “As key participants in the supply chain who will be required to deliver a functional operating border for GB and EU traders next year, we have visibility of the current state of preparedness which, as it stands, has significant gaps.

“If these issues are not addressed, disruption to UK business and the supply chain that we all rely so heavily on will be severely disrupted.”

Logistics UK has also warned that the Smart Freight system is among the vital components that might not be ready in time.

Smart Freight is one of eight IT systems that hauliers will need to use to move goods between the UK and Europe from the beginning of next year.

Sarah Laouadi, European policy manager at Logistics UK, said: “We are concerned that mass user testing of the software will not be possible until October – or maybe even November.

“This is far too late for the thousands of companies and tens of thousands of people who build our complex supply chains to redesign their own processes and contractual relations before the transition period ends.

“This timeline brings Smart Freight onstream at the height of the Christmas peak – traditionally the busiest time of year for the logistics industry – the worst possible time for our members to test and train staff in new working practices.

“Even if the software is ready by the end of the year, the government’s plans ignore the users’ perspective – our members will need time to learn the new system, adopt it and help to iron out any potential issues in the system.

“This will leave logistics businesses carrying the can for the government’s failure to plan in a timely fashion – something we have been warning about for some time now.”

Ms Laouadi warned that, without time to plan and bring in the new systems, the sector is “being set up to fail at the start of the new year”.

Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett said: “There are a range of critical issues the chancellor, Michael Gove and the transport secretary need to address, ranging from the Smart Freight app and other untried and untested IT systems, to the lack of customs agents and clear processes for tackling the mountain of red tape traders will face.

“The government’s pace is simply too slow on this, and that’s why we – the people who run the UK’s supply chain – need an urgent meeting with those at the top of government dealing with Brexit preparations.”

A government spokesperson said: “The border operating model sets out in significant detail the approach to UK border controls after the transition period.

“We worked closely with industry in its development and will continue to do so as we move towards the end of the transition period.”

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