It’s nearly the end of January, which means the UK officially left the EU almost a month ago. After years of discussions, negotiations and a lot of speculation from business owners, we can now see a rough picture of what a post-Brexit Britain looks like. And more specifically, a post-Brexit haulage industry. Of course it’s still early days yet, but already there have been some challenges for both HGV drivers and their employers, all of whom are facing their own unique stresses. And while we can by no means speak for everyone, this is just some of the impact we’ve seen from Brexit.
Right now? It’s a bit of a mess. BUT it’s difficult to tell how much of that is because of Brexit, and how much is down to Covud-19 and the travel restrictions. With many countries closing their borders completely, or requiring a recent negative Covid test in order to travel, many deliveries are being cancelled or delayed at the border while drivers wait for test results. That by itself hasn’t made the transition easy!
Even so, the post-Brexit red tape has caused plenty of problems as well. With delays and stock shortages, many businesses have reported problems in supply across the country. In some cases, the extra paperwork has caused businesses to stop offering certain services. For example, DPD have temporarily suspended their European Road Service due to the increased burden of customs paperwork for all EU-bound packages. DFDS have also been hit hard, and are seeing hundreds of their lorries being turned away and left stranded at Dover, Dunkerque and Calais due to incorrect paperwork being presented at check-in. In fact, thanks to issues like this the entire port of Dover has seen an 85% reduction in general trade traffic compared to this time in 2019.
Not all of this happened on Day 1 (as many predicted), but the strain is slowly increasing as haulage companies scramble to get the right paperwork and processes in place to handle the new workload. Some companies have stopped their European business while they sort this out, and more have been forced to close EU operations completely. The stress is only likely to get worse in the coming weeks, and there has been a growing pressure on the UK Government to renegotiate our trade deal with the EU to actually allow free movement again. As Alex Shannon, founder of Sous Vide Tools (who previously did around £200,00 in trade every month in the EU) says
“The UK Government have come out and said they’ve done this trade deal with the EU and it’s business as usual, and it’s complete codswallop. The paperwork has gone from taking two minutes to book a delivery and sort a consignment to go into Europe, to now taking 15 minutes at least’ This comes on top of issues with extra charges and duties for shipping into the EU – ‘Now, when goods come in from China, we pay duty as we did previously. But now when we send goods into Europe, we have to pay duty again, the free trade deal isn’t a free trade deal, and unless the Government change something, there are basically duties on sending back into Europe.”
The challenge now is working out what the future will hold, and how things are likely to change further. Experts across the board are predicting that the current supply and paperwork issues will continue for many months, especially while Covid-19 is adding extra pressure. But after a while, as businesses get used to what’s required and are able to get the right paperwork in order, it’s likely to become more routine and less stressful. However, it will likely have a big impact on the availability of EU products to the UK, and the price of EU products. It will also put off a lot of businesses from expanding into the EU, limiting growth. These are just some of the reasons that there’s growing pressure from the Road Haulage Association for the Government to take action. RHA spokesperson Paul Mummery said:
“We’re not trying to be doom-mongers, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. The volumes for import export are at the lowest point in the year anyway, and it is probably even quieter than usual, because the feedback we are getting from the industry is that firms were stockpiling before the Brexit deadline. When volumes of freight movement get back to normal levels, and they are set to start rising from next week, we will start seeing the real extent of the impact this red tape is having on industry and businesses. Everyone thought it was going to go wrong day one, but it’s going to happen later. The Government needs to better prepare businesses for where we are now, and do what they can to mitigate these problems ASAP.”
Ultimately, we can only comment on what we see now, which is a haulage system under more stress and strain than ever before. We are confident that things will slowly return to a new level of normal, but it will likely be some time before that happens. In the meantime, businesses are encouraged to ensure they have the right documentation for shipping within the EU, and to thoroughly prepare paperwork for each and every one of their shipments. We will keep you updated as we hear more.