Most UK Freight Forwarders Unprepared For 1 January Brexit Deadline

Most UK freight forwarding and logistics firms fear they will have insufficient staff to undertake the additional customs-related work required from 1 January when the UK’s Transition Period after leaving the European Union ends and believe government announcements, publications and information need to be more accurate and clearer.

Following a survey of its members, the British International Freight Association (BIFA) reports that a majority of respondents have significant reservations over whether they will have the capacity to handle the major changes to the UK’s trading relationship at the start of 2021, such as new customs documentation and procedures.

Nearly two thirds – 64% of respondents – felt they would not have sufficient staff to undertake the additional customs-related work that will be required from 1 January, a proportion that has risen significantly since a similar survey was conducted in May.

Robert Keen, director general of the trade association that represents Britain’s freight forwarding companies, says he believes that the results of BIFA’s latest survey of members clearly demonstrate that much greater clarity is needed on government plans for the border.

“The results indicate that the recent publication of the Border Operating Model and Moving Goods Under the Northern Ireland Protocol have not greatly assisted members’ understanding of procedures regarding imports and exports between the EU and UK, and GB and Northern Ireland, respectively,” Keen said.

In a general question on their understanding of the UK government’s plans for the border after the end of the Transition Period, more than half of the respondents said that they either had no knowledge, or what knowledge they do have needs improving.

In regards to the Border Operating Model, while 70% of respondents said they understand the Customs procedures required to import goods into the UK from the EU at the end of the Transition Period, fewer than half said that was the case in regards to Safety and Security Declarations. This was also the case with respondents that are involved in the import of live animals, and/or products of animal origin, as well as fresh fruit and vegetables.

The results were broadly similar for procedures to be followed for export movements from the UK to EU, although 79% said they have no understanding of import procedures in individual EU Member States regarding export movements from the UK to EU.

Northern Ireland confusion

Asked whether they understand the correct processes relating to trade between mainland GB and NI under the ‘Moving goods under the Northern Ireland Protocol’ process, the overwhelming majority of respondents said they do not understand the customs procedures, nor the safety and security declarations that will be required.

When asked about their familiarity with the following processes or organisations, the negative responses “were equally worrying”, BIFA said. “More than half of the respondents said they had no familiarity with the Goods Vehicle Management System (GVMS), whilst more than two thirds said the same about the Smart Freight Service; and the Trader Support Service (which applies to businesses in Northern Ireland only).