23rd September 2020 –
London, UK: The British government is deflecting blame for its customs failures onto the haulage industry.
Hauliers say they are being “fitted up” for the inevitable disruption caused by poor government Brexit choices, systems unready to handle customs clearance, and a failure to extend the Brexit transition period.
The leaked letter, from Michael Gove, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and the minister responsible for no-deal planning, warns of 7,000-truck queues in Kent if hauliers and exporters do not prepare for the end of the Brexit transition period on 1 January.
Imports will be disrupted in January, according to the letter, which also raises the prospect of a winter spike in Covid-19 cases, leading to absences of port and border staff.
The logistics industry has been warning for years of potential problems due to lack of government preparedness and lack of detail about how new customs arrangement will work.
The industry is furious about the disingenuous line that Michael Gove is taking, shifting responsibility for government failures onto the industry.
Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett said: “We’ve consistently warned the government but they’re not engaging with the industry on solutions. Traders need to recruit and train 50,000 new staff to handle new red tape but there is woefully inadequate support.”
The EU is expected to impose controls on the UK at the end of the transition period on 1 January, stopping all freight without the correct documents. The disruption is assumed to build in the first two weeks of January, and could last for three months, or longer should France rigorously apply passport checks on hauliers at Dover and the Channel Tunnel.
The purpose of Gove’s letter is to try to get traders to act now to get ready for new border formalities that could help mitigate the disruption. This needs to happen irrespective of whether or not there is a deal in the UK-EU trade negotiations.
The freight industry itself has expressed, in recent days, its concern that the government is not fully prepared with the plans and systems in place to deal with post-Brexit changes, particularly against the difficult economic backdrop of the pandemic.
Gove, in his letter, says the government will introduce a Smart Freight IT service to enable drivers and hauliers to complete a border readiness check despite the near certainty that the system will not be ready by 1 January. And an updated model for border arrangements is yet to be revealed.