How will the UK’s trade with Europe and the rest of the world be impacted by the country’s exit from the European Union – and how can there be a seamless transition for the logistics industry with as little disruption as possible to current trading arrangements?

The Freight Transport Association (FTA), which represents more than 16,000 members who ship goods by road, rail, sea and air, has been exploring this issue since the UK voted ‘leave’ last summer and has just released its Brexit Manifesto, detailing the logistics industry’s top 10 priorities to ensure continuity and stability at a time of huge change.

Prime Minister Theresa May has outlined her vision of “frictionless trade” and a global Britain that can capitalise on international opportunities. However, she has made it clear that she will walk away from the negotiating table if she cannot secure the right deal for Britain, threatening months of uncertainty and disruption for those whose businesses rely on imports and exports.

The logistics sector contributes over £121 billion Gross Value Added (GVA) to the UK economy and employs around eight per cent of the UK workforce. Most importantly, logistics is an enabler, underpinning all segments of the economy, and making both international trade and local deliveries possible. FTA has been in regular dialogue with the Government and will continue to press for logistics to be prioritised in Brexit negotiations.

FTA’s Brexit Manifesto clearly outlines three main areas that the Association believes should be the focus of discussions:

  • Global Britain – making the most of international opportunities, starting informal discussions with potential trade partners as soon as possible, and ensuring that red tape and border delays are minimised
  • Accessing the EU market – retaining barrier-free and frictionless access to the EU market post-Brexit to make trade as seamless as possible, with a specific focus on Ireland
  • Building a stronger Britain – the UK logistics industry needs a supportive environment to flourish in the post-Brexit world, with an attractive level of taxation (such as fuel duty) to incentivise trade, a smooth pathway to regulatory simplification and access to the best skills, wherever they come from

FTA Deputy Chief Executive James Hookham said: “The Government must ensure that there is no disruption to trade post-Brexit. There must be a smooth and seamless transition without additional administrative burdens or delays at borders for physical checks. This is particularly important for freight between Northern Ireland and the Republic, which currently moves freely, and we are calling on the Prime Minister to pay particular attention to this issue in her negotiations.” 

FTA’s members have discussed the Brexit issue at freight council meetings across the country and their concerns and opinions have formed the basis of the Manifesto, which will be circulated to key Government figures in coming weeks. The prospect of delays at ports and borders is one of their biggest concerns.

Mr Hookham said: “We already know the costs – just one hour’s delay at a port adds a total of £15,000 in haulage costs for those involved – so a streamlined process is vital. Shippers, forwarders and transport operators in the UK have been used to open borders in Europe for 24 years so it’s going to take time to adjust, it can’t just change overnight. A smooth transition will ensure that Britain’s trade with other EU countries – both into and out of the country – isn’t compromised.”

The Rt Hon David Jones MP, Minister of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union, has been confirmed as keynote speaker at a unique “Keep Britain Trading” event being staged by FTA at the Queen Elizabeth Centre in Westminster on 15 March which aims to help shippers, forwarders and transport operators navigate the choppy waters of Brexit.

Speakers include representatives of the Commonwealth Secretariat, shippers’ councils from Australia, Canada and Sri Lanka plus experts from many of the UK’s leading businesses which already successfully trade in global markets.  Attendees will have the chance to quiz the speakers on potential pitfalls and opportunities post-Brexit, and consider how trading relationships can be established or strengthened with minimum disruption.  

Mr Hookham said: “As far as Brexit is concerned, it’s vital for businesses to keep abreast of what is a constantly changing situation. FTA’s Keep Britain Trading conference will provide a clear oversight of the latest thinking and help to establish new pathways to facilitate ongoing and new business opportunities. It will also provide an excellent opportunity to network with industry leaders and peers to help craft the industry’s response to Government on the key issues affecting the freight sector.” 

To book a place at this must-attend one-day conference see

FTA’s Brexit Manifesto can be downloaded here