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The UK government is still failing to understand the country’s supply chains, say logistics operators, or recognise their anxiety as more Brexit regulations loom.
New controls on imports from the EU and the rest of the world are set to be introduced in October but, while broadly supportive, industry has raised concerns over the lack of preparation.
Logistics UK head of trade and devolved policy Nichola Mallon said: “We’ve highlighted the urgent need for government to provide greater detail to allow businesses to prepare for these new import control changes, given a very challengingly tight timescale and the fact they’ll be implemented alongside a raft of other changes to customs, border and trading processes.”
Among them are the Windsor Framework – seen as resolving the political stand-off over goods movements between Britain and Northern Ireland.
Concerns over a lack of clarity on what is happening with the new Border Operating Model (BOM) are reflected by uncertainty around the Windsor Framework’s implementation. Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) director Neil Johnston told The Loadstar: “From a retail perspective, the Windsor Framework has been broadly welcomed, but we’ve seen a lack of detail, meaning it’s beset with implementation concerns.
“Labelling, in particular, poses problems, with certain products requiring ‘for Northern Ireland’ labels by October – it’s May and there’s neither the detail nor the IT in place.”
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) also has concerns and has urged the UK government to sit down with hauliers to set out exactly how the Framework’s customs and sanitary & phytosanitary measures will work.
And, like the NIRC, the RHA is looking for guidance on proposed lane systems for movements, the Trusted Trader scheme and movements between Northern Ireland and Britain.
RHA MD Richard Smith said: “We’ve studied the practical workings of the Framework, and our members are increasingly concerned it’s still not clear how the arrangements reduce bureaucracy and work in real-time conditions.
“We urge ministers to work with us and other stakeholders to make the new arrangements as fluid as possible to protect our supply chains.”
Under the Framework, “Red” and “Green” lanes will be introduced, the former requiring full customs and border controls, while the latter is intended to ease retail movements and goods for SMEs with end consumption in Northern Ireland.
Hauliers, however, have described it as “overly bureaucratic” and that the green lane will prove “complicated and burdensome”.
The RHA said: “Members say it’s not clear how the process for moving goods from the EU to Great Britain via Northern Ireland would be different for goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.
“The RHA is also calling for a haulier-focused forum to improve communication and share information.”
Ms Mallon said: “We want to help government to identify operational difficulties and solutions swiftly. It is our members who keep the UK trading, and it is encouraging that government is listening to our concerns and is looking to address them.”
Mr Johnston noted: “It’s no longer the political confrontation it has been, and it is clear that both sides want to make things work.
“If systems aren’t in place by October, we get the feeling that it won’t be the end of the world, as there has been very clear scope for discussion and government will work to find a compromise. But we do need to get these structures in place quickly.”
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