Government must provide clear Brexit guidelines for logistics industry

posted on 24th June 2019 by Justin Burns

The UK Government must provide the logistics industry with clear and stable information so it can invest in the right technological solutions to prepare for Brexit, delegates at Multimodal 2019 heard last week.

Delegates attending the event heard from key logistics decision makers that technology can be put in place to ensure a seamless supply chain in a ‘day one no deal’ situation, but companies cannot invest without knowing what the right system needs to be.

They were peaking as part of a panel debate hosted by Peter Ward, chief executive officer of the UK Warehousing Association (UKWA), at the Multimodal 2019 exhibition, held in Birmingham last week.

“The technology is there as a tool, but this is a cart and horse situation,” said Tim Reardon, head of EU Exit, The Port of Dover.

“Until we have defined what the process is that the technology needs to deliver, there isn’t much point in developing it.”

The Freight Transport Association (FTA)’s head of global and European policy, Pauline Bastidon said there was a need for clarity.

“FTA continues to advise its members to use the time they have to prepare for a ‘No deal’ outcome, but many companies are reluctant to invest heavily without certainty that these investments will be required,” she said.

“This is probably the biggest challenge we have faced in a generation and the implications for logistics are huge.

“Government can do a lot to support the logistics industry as companies prepare themselves.

“FTA is urging the Government to extend the easements granted pre-29th March, provide clear, end-to-end guidance to industry setting out the process and requirements on both sides of the borders and to work with the industry to increase the attractiveness of transit and Customs facilitations.”

Peter MacSwiney, chairman, ASM, said it was not surprising that people were hesitant to invest in technology without knowing if they were developing the appropriate solution.

“The one thing we have lacked is certainty,” he said. “How many businesses would spend thousands of pounds on a system that might not be right?

“If we knew what we were faced with, we could find solutions to deal with it.

“The technology is there, but we have to develop it and we should think in terms of five years and a minimum of three years to get it working and to train people to use it.”

Shahar Ayash, managing director UK and Europe, Tigers, said that Brexit offered both a challenge and an opportunity for the industry.

“We know that around 35 percent of the supply chain is taken up by the last mile and so Brexit can be seen as an opportunity for our industry,” he said.

“Tigers has invested in technology as well as warehousing in the UK and in Europe and we are advising customers to split their stock of goods.

“They will avoid congestion, but also, it makes more sense, it will mean a better service for their customers and there is an environmental aspect to this as well.”

Bastidon called on the industry to collaborate to find a solution.“A lot of people are spending a lot of time preparing, but not talking to other partners in the chain,” she said.

“It is part of the problem; we need to encourage all partners to communicate and work together.”

“It was a privilege to moderate this panel and the organisers of Multimodal should be congratulated for assembling such a wealth of knowledge on Brexit and providing the platform for important facts and information to be shared with a large audience that represents the UK’s logistics industry,” said Ward.

“Once again Brexit turned conventional wisdom on its head.

“Usually at forums such as these the dispersal of information provides a level of comfort, but, according to a polling of the ‘standing room only’ audience, the number of delegates feeling unprepared for Brexit doubled during the hour-long discussion.”  

Over 9000 supply chain decision makers visited 225 exhibitors over the three-day free-to-attend show.

Next year’s Multimodal takes place from 16 to 18 June 2020 at the NEC Birmingham.