FTA, the UK’s leading membership association representing the logistics industry, has warned the government’s Brexit negotiators to prioritise the negotiation of aviation and road access agreements with the European Union, if all traffic and trade between the UK and the Continent is to keep moving after 29 March 2019.

“Discussions on the future Customs arrangements between the UK and EU appear stalled, but the Government needs to move on and prioritise separate agreements on international road transport and aviation to allow truck and planes to keep moving between the UK and EU after Brexit,” says James Hookham, Deputy Chief Executive of FTA, which speaks on behalf of more than 17,000 UK logistics businesses.

“Leaving the Single Market means an end to the automatic rights for trucks to drive and planes to fly between the UK and the EU27 countries. The UK will also lose automatic access to the flying rights contained in EU aviation agreements negotiated with other countries, including the USA.

“This will be catastrophic for businesses trading with the EU, regardless of the Customs and Border issues. Yet no decision has been made to provide the logistics sector with the reassurance we need that this matter is being dealt with so that the country can keep trading effectively in the event of a No Deal exit next March.

“Should the UK leave the EU without an agreed air deal, and with the country no longer part of the EU’s aviation partnership, planes from 44 countries around the world would not be legally permitted to arrive or depart from the UK.  This could be disastrous for businesses of all sizes which rely on just in time deliveries via the UK’s airports which connect them to the rest of the world.

“To compound the problem further, without a road transportation deal, the UK could only have access to between 140 and 1,000 permits each day to allow British lorries to travel to and from the Continent.  When you consider that up to 10,000 lorries pass through the Port of Dover alone daily, you can see that this number is woefully short of the required total.  Without an agreement which facilitates frictionless movement of vehicles between the UK and Europe, there is a very real prospect of severe road delays on both sides of the Channel, and, ultimately, a significant threat to the UK’s complex supply chain on which we all rely, from both a business and a personal point of view.”

On behalf of its members, FTA has been raising the issue of air and road freight prioritisation with government contacts since the triggering of Article 50 in 2017.  But, as Hookham says, other priorities seem to have taken hold:

“Of course, the Brexit negotiation process is a complex one, with many different strands.  But we find it incredible that nothing has been done so far about the basic need to move people and trade between the UK and its most significant trading partner – the EU – in the most effortless way possible.  The logistics industry is ready and waiting to ensure that our shops, businesses, factories and hospitals continue to be stocked with whatever they need, but without assurances that these agreements are to be prioritised, operators are being set up to fail the very customers we are committed to serve.

“The logistics industry needs a very real commitment from government that air and road agreements are at the top of the agenda when negotiations resume in Brussels in September – the clock is ticking for business, and there is not much time left in which to reach a solution.”

Efficient logistics is vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods.  With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc.  A champion and challenger, FTA speaks to Government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers.