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New government urged to review Brexit strategy as UK border issues continue

IT issues at the UK border may have receded, but shippers are continuing to be plagued by a range of problems, with calls for greater levels of communication from government agencies.

Following the introduction of new phytosanitary regulations at the start of May, importers were left hobbled by delays exceeding 24 hours at UK ports of entry after a technical glitch resulted in a backlog of trucks waiting to exit.

Chief executive of the UK’s Fresh Produce Consortium, Nigel Jenney, confirmed that the IT issue appeared to have been resolved but new problems had emerged in its wake.

“Particularly concerning for us is that our members are, from time to time, experiencing new problems, but they have little idea [why]. Sometimes it is an error they have made, other times they just don’t know,” Jenney told The Loadstar.

“What we do know is that communication is missing, that there is different information from different agencies, and that there seems to be no clear decision-making process.”

Mr Jenney’s concerns have echoed many heard by The Loadstar in the near-seven years since the Brexit referendum, with worries prior to the formal withdrawal that the UK government had not got its head around the way in which UK supply chains worked. In 2018, for example, the Brexit minister admitted he hadn’t understood how reliant the UK was on the Dover-Calais crossing.

Jenney’s comments came hot on the heels of UK prime minister Rishi Sunak calling for a general election, one which he is widely expected to lose.

Responding to news of the forthcoming election on July 4, Logistics UK urged the eventual winner to appoint a dedicated minister for logistics and supply chain, with chief executive David Wells stating that such a focus “would bring dividends for the UK’s whole economy”.

“Whether manufacturing or retail, healthcare or education, every part of our economy relies on logistics to provide all the goods needed to generate business and growth,” said Mr Wells.

“Giving logistics a voice at the heart of government would ensure that the needs of industry and business are heard, and that our sector can work with government to drive up the country’s productivity.”

Such calls are by no means new, with similar suggestions from across the industry, including some of the major port operators.

Those voices warned in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum that someone inside government with knowledge of the sector was essential to avoid a catastrophic departure from the EU, going on to castigate government for pushing ahead without properly understanding the industry.

Commenting, Jenney added that the idea of taking back control of the border was meant to promote British industry – but instead the handling of Brexit had “stifled it”.

“As to whether there is a minister or not, I do not mind, but what is needed is the knowledge, the understanding, and, importantly, the respect for the industry that there has not been in recent years,” he continued.

“The way I see it is that the election is an opportunity for the winner to urgently review and then change the existing border strategy because the present model is not fit for purpose.”


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