26 / 06 / 2019
The UK government has made two key logistics appointments as it looks to deliver its Brexit commitment to find workable alternatives to the Northern Ireland backstop when Britain leaves the European Union (EU).
Peter MacSwiney, chairman of Customs clearance software provider ASM, has been appointed to a new Technical Alternative Arrangements Advisory Group, set up by the Department for Exiting the European Union to explore options to replace the Northern Ireland backstop by the end of 2020.
The advisory group consists of 15 technical experts in Customs and trade from both the public and private sectors, and academia.
Seamus Leheny, policy manager for Northern Ireland at FTA, has been selected to become a member of the Business and Trade Union Alternative Arrangements Advisory Group, which will complement the work of the Technical Alternative Arrangements Advisory Group.
A spokesperson for the government department said that the UK and EU have a “shared desire to replace the backstop with alternative arrangements” to ensure there is no hard border — and both sides have previously committed to prioritising the development of these in the next phase of talks.
Said MacSwiney: “The ongoing debate surrounding the Northern Ireland backstop is causing further uncertainty for the transport and logistics industry and we have to find a solution.
“The new Technical Alternative Arrangements Advisory Group will help to inform the government about other options available, with the aim of replacing the backstop and providing some much-needed certainty to businesses that are reliant on cross-border trade.”
MacSwiney recently called for the government to provide clear guidelines to help businesses to prepare for Brexit during a panel at Multimodal in Birmingham.
“The one thing we have lacked is certainty,” he said during the panel, adding: ““How many businesses would spend thousands of pounds on a system that might not be right? If we knew what we were faced with, we could find solutions to deal with it.
“The technology is there, but we have to develop it, and we should think in terms of five years and a minimum of three years to get it working and to train people to use it.”
The FTA’s Leheny commented: “As the organisation representing the logistics sector, it is essential FTA’s voice is included in any major discussion on the UK’s departure from the EU.
“So many businesses and individuals’ jobs are dependent on the continued free movement of goods cross the border in both directions, but the lack of progress shown by politicians in sorting future arrangements in Ireland are at the heart of the stagnation of Brexit talks.”
Leheny continued: “On any given day, more than 13,500 goods vehicles cross just six of the 300 border crossings in Ireland, with the majority of freight being intermediate goods that are an integral part of all-island supply chains.
“My role in this group will be to work to preserve seamless business links between Northern Ireland and EU27 countries, especially the Republic of Ireland, in any Brexit negotiation and protect the interests of those organisations that we represent, as well as the wider Northern Irish economy.”