A leading logistics expert has said politicians’ Christmas present to the UK’s EU’s traders should be much more certainty over arrangements following the country’s departure from the bloc.
Speaking with 100 days left until the UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March next year, Adam Johnson, director of Leeds-based Tudor International Freight, said his organisation, its customers and other businesses were becoming very frustrated at the country’s politicians apparently delaying crucial decisions.
Mr Johnson said: “The last 10 days or so, for example, has been largely a case of ‘much ado about nothing’. We’ve had the postponement of the so-called Commons meaningful vote on the withdrawal agreement negotiated by the Prime Minister with the EU, because it would have been rejected, which would, at least, have allowed one option to be eliminated.
“That was followed by Mrs May visiting various EU capitals and attending the Brussels summit, in a bid to secure concessions making her deal more palatable to MPs, which seem to have yielded little. We’ve also had the distraction of an abortive attempt to topple the Prime Minister by some Conservative MPs, which, even if successful, would have been unlikely to change much in the Brexit picture.”
Mr Johnson added we were now told the meaningful vote would not be held until the new year, partly, it seemed, because Mrs May was still hoping for something to turn up which would enable her deal to be passed.
He said some MPs and commentators had even speculated that the Prime Minister may be deliberately running the clock down, with a view to presenting Parliament with a straight choice between her deal and a “no deal” exit, as the departure date approached, given that this now seemed the best chance of her agreement being ratified.
He said: “Business is, rightly, usually very reluctant to intervene in politics. That’s why my own organisation expressed no preference in the approach to the 2016 referendum for remain or leave. This also explains why we haven’t advocated a particular form of Brexit since then, other than to endorse the widespread view among companies trading with the EU that a ‘no-deal’ departure would be highly undesirable for our economy.
“What businesses do have a right to expect from politicians, at this late stage, however, is a high degree of certainty, and that’s still lacking. International traders are usually capable of adapting to changing circumstances – they have to be – but they do need time to plan properly for significant alterations like our departure from the EU.”
Mr Johnson said an example of a crucial area of doubt for freight forwarders like Tudor and the customers which employed them was the time it would take to convey goods through ports after March.
He said: “At present, our membership of the EU Single Market and Customs Union means traffic to and from other member states usually flows through ports relatively freely. We certainly hope a way can be found to maintain this system after Brexit.
“But if we leave without a deal next March – which would also mean no transition period, involving arrangements remaining unchanged for the following 20 months – we’d find ourselves in much more difficult circumstances.”
Mr Johnson said research earlier this year from Imperial College, London, indicated if each vehicle passing through Dover was delayed by an additional two minutes, due to extra customs and regulatory checks, following a “no-deal” Brexit, for example, tailbacks stretching up to 29 miles along the M20 would result.
He said: “Parliament has several possible ways forward – approving the existing withdrawal agreement, applying to join the European Economic Area, holding a new referendum, calling a General Election, asking the EU to extend the Article 50 period or cancelling Brexit altogether, for example. Whichever it deems appropriate, businesses trading with the EU now need to see progress. The time for political prevarication has passed.”
For further information about Tudor International Freight, please visit https://tudorfreight.co.uk.