Announcing £2.1 billion to prepare for a no-deal Brexit, the new Chancellor, Sajid Javid, said that the aim was to ensure government departments step up vital operational preparations across the country as the UK leaves the EU on 31 October.
The extra funding will be used for border and customs operations, critical medical supplies, support for UK nationals abroad and an awareness campaign to ensure the public and businesses are ready to leave the EU.
“We want to get a good deal that abolishes the anti-democratic backstop,” the Chancellor said. “But if we can’t get a good deal, we’ll have to leave without one. This additional £2.1 billion will ensure we are ready to leave on 31 October — deal or no deal.”
However, the announcement has received only the most cautious of welcomes from the various organisations in the sector with Road Haulage Association (RHA) chief executive Richard Burnett warning that it will be a tall order to get businesses ready and new border staff recruited and trained in time for the deadline.
His views were echoed by James Hookham, Deputy Chief Executive at the Freight Transport Association (FTA), who said that the Chancellor’s moves fell well short of what will be required to ensure that firms currently trading with the EU will be able to continue operating smoothly and efficiently in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
“The allowances announced may enable the Government to say they have helped business,” he went on, “but the reality once again leaves logistics operators carrying the burden of adapting to and adopting new operating procedures at the last minute.”
The British Ports Association (BPA) agreed that no deal could mean huge additional burdens on freight operators, hauliers and traders who could need to adapt systems and collect and process the information required for customs and frontier purposes.
“We have heard conservative estimates of additional costs for the freight industry of around £12 billion each year just in agency fees if customs declarations are required for UK-EU freight,” Chief Executive Richard Ballantyne said. “These costs also exclude investments in new systems and any burdens imposed from tariffs.”
Last reviewed 7 August 2019