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© Bakhtiar Zein

Britain’s government may have fumbled its preparations for Brexit, but the same cannot be said for the Dutch – the Netherlands likely to win a rush of post-Brexit business.

Brexit coordinator for Customs Netherlands Roel van’t Veld told the panel at this week’s Invest in Holland event that, since the result of the UK’s 2016 referendum, Dutch Customs had recruited, trained and deployed 900 additional customs officers.

“Our government was quick off the mark, saying no-deal is what we have to worry about, therefore it is also what we must prepare for,” said Mr van’t Veld.

“Realising this would be a massive operation, we started work immediately, and we have kept moving since, getting new staff into posts so they have on-the-job experience when the change occurs.”

The impact of Brexit on the Netherlands is expected to be sizeable, with the port of Rotterdam alone handling some 54m tonnes of freight from the UK every year.

As UK trade enters third-country status, Mr van’Veld said he expected the number of customs declarations processed in the Netherlands to leap 20-30%, on top of the already sizeable number it handles as the main gateway for third-country goods entering the EU.

“Ensuring this required that we upgrade our IT systems, and while this was achieved, the end user needed to be ready,” he added. “But we have been lucky, because throughout the process there has been great cooperation between the business and logistics communities with government and customs.”

UK-headquartered retailer Monster Group decided it needed to open a European warehouse for business continuity.

“We decided in February [2019] that we had to open a warehouse in the Netherlands, and we set ourselves a crazy deadline for achieving this, wanting it up and running the following month,” MD Rana Harvey told the Invest in Holland event.

“It was crazy, but what we found out was that everyone wanted us to succeed – the Dutch government supported us and, within three days, we had a warehouse and a manager for it.

“It was this support and belief in our ability that really made the difference; it’s what makes the Netherlands different, because everyone not only wanted to help, but did help.”

In the UK, the view of government is more jaded, with many still noting an absence of information emanating from Westminster.

Commercial director of Wallenborn Transports Jason Breakwell told The Loadstar: “Most of the people I speak with are concerned because they are supply chain specialists who need to know exactly what to do from 1 January.”

Earlier this week, The Loadstar reported on calls to further extend the transition period to allow UK businesses more time to prepare.

Mr Breakwell said that beyond companies trading with the UK, he sensed “indifference” among most of mainland Europe to such a suggestion, adding that “the UK has decided to leave and needs to leave”.

Two further sources told The Loadstar that without a fundamental reset in the way border preparedness was approached, the same issues would arise at the end of any extension.

Head of business development at the Holland International Distribution Council Jochem Sanders said with the Netherlands having been “preparing for the worst, hoping for the best” for the past three years, it was now ready for Brexit.

He added: “We now see companies moving stock from the UK to the Netherlands, because we have made it an attractive proposition.”

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