Government steps up campaign to prepare for end of transition period

Government urges businesses to prepare for end of transition period

The Government will step up its campaign urging businesses to prepare for the end of the UK transition period this week with a new strapline: “Time is running out”.

In a call with business leaders the Prime Minister and Michael Gove will discuss preparations and ask businesses to step up their efforts to get ready for the changes in just over eight weeks.

HMRC is also writing to 200,000 traders who trade with the EU to set out the new customs and tax rules coming into place and how to deal with them.

This follows a clear direction from the Prime Minister that the UK must prepare to leave the EU on Australia-style terms, “based on simple principles of global free trade,” and “after the European Council conclusions last week left us without a basis to continue trade negotiations if there was no fundamental change in the EU’s negotiating position.”

Michael Gove added: “At the end of this year we are leaving the EU Single Market and Customs Union and this means there are both new challenges and new opportunities for businesses. Make no mistake, there are changes coming in just 75 days and time is running out for businesses to act.

“It is on all of us to put in the work now so that we can embrace the new opportunities available to an independent trading nation with control of its own borders, territorial waters and laws.”

Gove has ordered the XO Cabinet Committee to convene five times per week. Its focus will now be “firmly on making sure businesses are ready for the changes and opportunities ahead”.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “With just 75 days until the end of the transition period, businesses must act now to ensure they are ready for the UK’s new start as an independent trading nation once more. There will be no extension to the transition period, so there is no time to waste.

“There will be a guaranteed set of changes for which businesses need to prepare for, so I urge all businesses across the country to check gov.uk/transition to see what action they need to take.

“Businesses have a crucial role to play in ensuring a smooth transition, and the Government will be there to support them through this change every step of the way,” he added.

Elizabeth De Jong, Director of Policy, Logistics UK said a deal is “vital for the transport and logistics industry and for the whole economy, which relies on fast and efficient supply chains”. 

“To keep Britain trading, trucks must keep going through the borders with the least possible friction; a deal with the EU is vital to achieve this and to enable the sector to focus on maintaining its resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic and investing to improve performance,” she added.

The RHA’s reaction to the government statement “time is running out for business to prepare”, was one of “relief and encouragement”. 

Commenting, RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “Since the UK voted to leave the EU back in 2016, the Brexit and exit process has been difficult and often frustrating.

“Changes in governmental and subsequent departmental leadership have, on many occasions, meant a return to square one as regards delivering the message about what it needed for the haulage and logistics industry going forward. These regular changes have been a major reason for a general lack of clarity as regards the future processes.”

Burnett continued: “We have heard ministers say that under no circumstances will lorries be stopped at Dover, comments that have been overshadowed by the prospect of thousands of trucks stranded in Kent.

 “It’s taken a long time but I am encouraged that Mr Gove and his team are obviously hell bent on working more closely with businesses in the run-up to the end of the transition period on 31 December.

 “I know that he keen to once and for all eradicate the blame culture and we, in turn, will make sure that with just over eight weeks to go until the transition period ends, we do everything we can to help make it as seamless as possible.

 “For the RHA and the industry we represent, one of the greatest points of concern has been the shortage of customs agents needed to process the additional, extensive, paperwork.

 “We have come up with our own solution, the RHA Customs Brokerage Service which goes live on 1 November. I am not saying that our new service will solve the problem, but it will certainly go some way to help those undertaking RoRo services on sea crossings.”

Aidan Flynn, General Manager of FTA Ireland (FTAI), said hopes that a deal can be struck between the EU and the UK is “fading fast”. 

“As such, we are urging Irish logistics companies to ramp up their no-deal Brexit preparations in case this becomes a reality. 

“Leaving the EU without a free trade deal would be the worst possible outcome for the free movement of goods between the EU and the UK; it would have implications for the accessibility of traders between the two blocks. A trade deal is needed to ensure that the connectivity and accessibility to markets is maintained. Both parties need to work over the coming weeks to ensure that this accessibility is maintained.

“FTA Ireland is calling on the EU and Irish Government to support increased connectivity between continental Europe and Ireland through new ferry links, particularly between Rosslare and northern France to abate the negative implications of a no-deal Brexit on the land bridge, which currently is a strategic connection between Ireland and the continent. 

“In addition, the work to Dublin Port must be completed as soon as possible to allow import simulations to take place to aid industry in understanding the new customs and SPS checks for loads arriving into the port from Great Britain, and to test the IT systems that will be used to process checks in a speedy manner.”

Flynn added: “EU-UK negotiations will continue, however, all in the freight distribution and logistics sector must now work collaboratively and constructively to ensure Ireland is prepared and ready for what could be a no-deal Brexit.”

The Government said it recently-published Border Operating Model should give traders the clarity they need to prepare for the new rules. Freight and logistics businesses can get a personalised summary of the actions they need to take by visiting gov.uk/transition.