Well, here we are. After years of discussion, debate and negotiation, the UK has now officially left the EU. Now, instead of speculating about what Brexit might do to various industries, we are now starting to see the real impact. Of course it’s still early days, but in some industries the changes have already started to become very clear. For the haulage industry, it’s a little difficult to see, since the current Covid-19 travel restrictions are muddying the waters a little bit. But even with all of that, there are some negatives to Brexit which are already starting to show, especially around the borders. And with trade starting to return to normal levels, the true impact of Brexit is starting to hit home.
Almost 1 month in, the challenges facing businesses who rely on haulage are piling up. So far the post-Brexit red tape has left drivers stranded at various borders across the EU, causing delays and stock shortages in various firms, with supermarkets being hit the hardest. It’s also caused businesses like DPD to pause their services – DPD have suspended their European Road Service – due to the increased burden of customs paperwork for EU-bound packages. DFDS have also seen hundreds of lorries being turned away at Dover, Dunkerque and Calais due to the incorrect paperwork being presented at check-in. In fact, general trade traffic through the port of Dover is down 85% from its 2019 average. Many businesses have also suspended their European operations, or closed them entirely, due to the increased paperwork, extra import-export duties and confusion over the new trade rules.
While it might not have happened on day 1, a lot of this is what was predicted when Brexit border rules were being negotiated, and even Michael Gove has said that the situation is likely to become even more disrupted in the coming weeks, before things start to level out. On the other side of things, haulage firms are causing for the Government to review and renegotiate their trade deal with the EU. As Alex Shannon, founder of Sous Vide Tools (who previously did around £200,00 in trade every month in the EU) says:
“The UK Government have come out and said they’ve done this trade deal with the EU and it’s business as usual, and it’s complete codswallop. The paperwork has gone from taking two minutes to book a delivery and sort a consignment to go into Europe, to now taking 15 minutes at least’ This comes on top of issues with extra charges and duties for shipping into the EU – ‘Now, when goods come in from China, we pay duty as we did previously. But now when we send goods into Europe, we have to pay duty again, the free trade deal isn’t a free trade deal, and unless the Government change something, there are basically duties on sending back into Europe.”
Right now, it’s difficult to tell what the haulage industry in the UK will look like in the future. Most experts are predicting that the current issues will continue for several months, especially while Covid-19 is causing extra problems. But we are still in the early days, and an adjustment period is to be expected. As haulage firms get used to what the new rules entail, the process will likely become a more routine part of the daily running of business. More worrying are the continual deliveries being held up or just turned away at borders while issues are worked out – which could cause longer term problems for businesses and haulage firms. There is growing pressure from the Road Haulage Association for the Government to take action. RHA spokesperson Paul Mummery said:
“We’re not trying to be doom-mongers, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. The volumes for import export are at the lowest point in the year anyway, and it is probably even quieter than usual, because the feedback we are getting from the industry is that firms were stockpiling before the Brexit deadline. When volumes of freight movement get back to normal levels, and they are set to start rising from next week, we will start seeing the real extent of the impact this red tape is having on industry and businesses. Everyone thought it was going to go wrong day one, but it’s going to happen later. The Government needs to better prepare businesses for where we are now, and do what they can to mitigate these problems ASAP.”
So in summary? We still don’t know. Right now the situation isn’t ideal, but there is still a lot of room for change in both the immediate future and long term. For now, all we can suggest is that haulage firms are extra vigilant when it comes to the required paperwork for each of their shipments, and make sure they have done the required checks to be able to ship into the EU. We will keep you updated as and when we hear more developments.
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