Fears growing over Brexit disruption

Experts warn Britain in no way ready to administer trade after Britain leaves EU

The boss of Calais port in France has warned of potential 30-mile tailbacks if  mandatory customs and food safety checks are introduced after Brexit.    Photograph:  Jack Taylor/Getty Images

The boss of Calais port in France has warned of potential 30-mile tailbacks if mandatory customs and food safety checks are introduced after Brexit. Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

 

There has been a lot of focus on the politics of Brexit. But precious little, from a business viewpoint, on the practicalities.

And fears are growing of disruption, delays and perhaps even chaos, unless the politicians both sort out the talks and start to ensure that the practical issues of how trade will work after Brexit are dealt with too.

Just one example came this week, when the Treasury Committee of the UK parliament had a range of experts in to talk about borders and trade after Brexit.

The message coming from two senior figures from the logistics industry, both managing large international movements of goods was stark: the UK isn’t ready to administer trade after Brexit. No-one has decided how the practicalities will work, there is a shortage of trained personnel both in the government and industry and a lack of planning for the horrendously complex paperwork and bureaucracy.

True, some of this will depend on what new trade arrangements emerge after Brexit. But a departure from the customs union and single market will necessitate a whole range of new controls and checks. And this is what the UK says it plans to do.

The transition period, to December 2020, may give some time to sort this out. But what if the UK crashes out in March 2019? And even the end of 2020 deadline leaves the time to plan and implement very tight, particularly as details of customs and regulatory requirements may not be fully clear until well into the transition. Roll-on/roll-off freight traffic was identified as a key risk area .

Stark warnings of huge tailbacks have also come from the boss of Calais port in France, who told the Guardian this week that there could be 30-mile tailbacks if there were mandatory customs and food safety checks.

These are huge issues for Irish businesses moving goods to the UK, or through it via the landbridge to European markets. And meanwhile, we have yet to see how the authorities here will gear up to meet the huge challenges of managing trade after Brexit. All this makes a transition period after the UK leaves the EU look absolutely essential. Yet such is the extent of chaos in the talks that even this cannot be guaranteed.

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