The UK Warehousing Association (UKWA) has welcomed the Government’s announcement that it is ramping up preparations for a no-deal Brexit, but the Association’s CEO, Peter Ward, says that more detail is urgently required regarding how the £2.1bn funding package will be spent.
Peter Ward comments: “As UKWA has previously highlighted, a withdrawal to WTO terms would require in the region of 200 million extra customs declarations, with border checks on animal and plant imports.
“Currently there are no inspection facilities at the Port of Dover and the necessary time frame required to plan, build and staff such facilities makes it entirely unfeasible as a proposition to mitigate the effects of a no-deal Brexit.
“However, we hope that the new Government will take a fresh approach to the challenge and adapt the ‘rule book’ for the new world.
“UKWA members stand ready to help and, given a change in the current legislation, businesses already in the food storage and distribution sector could convert existing warehouses to include food inspection facilities.
“At present, by law such inspections must be conducted before produce leaves the port, but our view is that establishing an inland network of inspection depots by utilising existing facilities offers a more pragmatic, cost-effective and timely solution than extending infrastructure at the ports.
“UKWA members already operate within the demanding regulations for food handling and inspection could simply become part of the process.”
Peter Ward adds that the logistics and warehousing sector is currently “in growth mode” with the ongoing expansion of online shopping prompting many logistics businesses to invest in more space as a future-proofing exercise. However, he says, the main challenge facing the industry is a shortage of labour.
He says: “Unfortunately, 31st October – the date set for Britain’s EU departure – coincides with peak season for many UKWA members as their retailer clients gear up for Black Friday and Christmas.
“The major problem we have seen in the sector is sourcing labour and the so-called ‘Brexodus’ has severely exacerbated an already serious problem: the falling value of the pound looks likely to drive more migrant labour away.
“Therefore, UKWA’s message to the Government is a plea to review the proposed immigration caps post-Brexit. In common with the construction and hospitality sectors, the logistics and warehousing industry desperately needs access to low-skilled, low-cost labour. With low youth unemployment figures in the UK, we look to the EU to supplement our workforce.”
UKWA is in consultation with HM Government’s Border Delivery Group to provide insight from the logistics industry and to gather the latest information on no-deal preparations to disseminate to its members.