Frictionless trade is “not sufficiently at the heart” of Brexit negotiations, according to the Freight Transport Association (FTA).
The FTA, responding to the latest agreement on the proposed transitional period, said despite guidelines for potential customs and regulatory solutions, “controls and checks on both sides of the border between the UK and EU will be unavoidable”.
The FTA said research showed an additional delay of two minutes per vehicle could result in tailbacks of 29 miles at borders during peak times.
James Hookham, FTA deputy CEO, said: “This would create uncertainty and potential damage to deeply integrated and time-sensitive supply chains.
“The guidelines touch upon potential solutions to reduce frictions at the borders, but also make it clear that checks and controls will be unavoidable. Limiting non-tariff barriers is favoured by the proposals, but these also mention cumbersome rules of origins and fall short of giving guarantees to traders.
“To protect trading relationships and deeply connected supply chains, FTA is urging both negotiating teams to bear in mind the effect of potential delays on economies on the two sides, and to prioritise the scrapping of potential barriers as negotiations on the future relationship start.
“There is still much detail to be agreed in the two-and-a-half years between now and the end of the transition period – a tiny period of time in business terms considering the scale of the challenge.
“The devil will be in the details when it comes to negotiation, and it is now critical that both sides focus closely on trading arrangements to minimise the potential for delays, which will otherwise hit supply chains and economies on all sides hard.”
Hookham added: “No one wants to return to the situation of the summer of 2015, when HGVs were queueing along the M20 in Kent for days on end, costing British business many thousands of pounds. Yet this is the prospect we could be facing now. It is a huge concern for industry, the future growth of the UK, and the EU economy, if the cost of trade starts to spiral.”
• Look out for the April issue of Supply Management, where Hookham outlines the decisions that will affect the movement of freight, and should be monitored by supply chain practitioners.
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