It’s been two years since the Brexit vote and in that time we have seen markets rise and fall, deals agreed and broken and a multitude of questions asked of industry professionals. It seems like no one really knew what Brexit would mean for the country. However, for companies like Transmode, whose core business is shipping and haulage, Brexit is very much on our radar as it has the potential to drastically affect our business and our profit margin. In an attempt to understand how Brexit will affect the various facets of the transport industry, the government has invited the freight industry to participate in an inquiry to further understand the impacts of Article 50.
Acknowledging that the implications of Brexit will vary across freight modes as well as different types of freight, the Transport Committee chair Lilian Greenwood has stated that: “We want the sector to tell us what’s worrying them. What is required to make this work?” The enquiry is looking for industry input in four key areas:
– The nature and scale of both the challenges and opportunities that Brexit is likely to present to transport companies and their customers
– The adequacy of steps being taken by government, industry bodies, companies and customers in preparation for Brexit
– Sector-specific requirements for government funding, especially in relation to transport infrastructure, to support the needs of the industry post-Brexit
– Any new arrangements needed for the regulation, licensing and training of transport industry workers post-Brexit, with particular reference to the adequacy of measures set out in the government’s Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill
It’s probably fair to state that within the freight industry there is considerable concern as to the impact Brexit could have on the future transport of goods across a UK-EU border. For all the pro and con arguments on the EU single market and customs union, there is no denying that we currently enjoy frictionless freight transport between EU member states. After Brexit – and particularly if we get a worst-case-scenario “no deal” Brexit – there is the potential for road, sea and air freight alike to face massive increases in red tape, with extra paperwork, delays and even tariffs a very real possibility. The impact not only on freight operators, but on entire industries and supply chains, could be considerable.
There are other concerns that need to be explored too. Many freight companies in the UK benefit from the employment of skilled EU workers, and if Brexit does mean an end to free movement then some firms may struggle to fill vacancies. Other businesses may choose to relocate to another EU member state and restructure so that they don’t have to deal with UK-EU border hassles and costs. Other economic factors will have an impact too – for example, a slowdown in Britain’s GDP could negatively impact maritime trade growth.
While it arguably could have happened sooner, the government seeking industry insight into the implications of Brexit on the freight sector is certainly welcome. Here at Transmode, we will of course be submitting our thoughts, and we would encourage our companions in the freight industry to do the same. You can make your written submissions to the government inquiry online here. The last date for submissions is Friday 8 June 2018.