No Deal is not an acceptable option for the logistics industry, is the message to be delivered by the Freight Transport Association (FTA) during its audience with Theresa May yesterday (22 November 2018) at Number 10 Downing Street.
The meeting, at the request of the Prime Minister, will give Northern Ireland policy lead Seamus Leheny and three of the association’s members the opportunity to give FTA’s support for the draft Brexit agreement to the Prime Minister personally, while intensifying its call to Parliament to avoid a disorderly departure from the EU and consider the impact of a No Deal outcome on the island of Ireland.
Seamus Leheny, Northern Ireland Policy Manager at FTA, the largest and most influential business organisation in the logistics sector, will be among a select group of Northern Ireland’s business leaders to be invited to Number 10. He will be accompanied by three FTA members from the province – Woodside Logistics Group, Manfreight & Derry Refrigerated Transport – to ensure the views of the association’s members are clearly heard and understood by government.
Leheny commented: “As the business group representing the interests of the logistics sector, I’m delighted FTA has been chosen to consult with the Prime Minister; it’s a testament to the success of our almost two-year battle to ensure the needs of the logistics industry are heard at the highest corridors of power. It is vital that, whatever deal is reached in Brussels and in Parliament, Brexit delivers a fair outcome to the very people responsible for keeping Britain trading. The logistics sector is the beating heart of the UK economy – delivering the goods and services businesses need to operate – and an orderly Brexit departure is essential to ensure the economy does not come grinding to a halt.
“The draft Brexit agreement is not perfect – there is much work to be done to ensure Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK gets the best deal possible – but it’s a very positive step in the right direction. This meeting will provide an opportunity for FTA to drill into the detail of the agreement and get answers to our most pressing questions from the Prime Minister herself, not least reassurances on the future security of cross-border trade in Ireland.
“Maintaining seamless trade between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is critical to the continued success of Northern Ireland’s economy – currently around 7,000 HGVs per day move goods from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland and 70% of this trade is in intermediate goods, which are used by businesses to create or develop other products. Many of these products go on to be exported further afield and so must not be subject to unnecessary fiscal or regulatory controls. Any friction jeopardises the viability of these vital trade flows for our members, and for the success of Northern Ireland’s trade balance sheet.”
According to FTA, the draft agreement presented to Cabinet last week would maintain the integrity of the UK’s supply chain by allowing the continued frictionless movement of goods until at least 2021, when a new trade agreement will be negotiated, while protecting citizens' rights, both in the UK and the EU, which will safeguard the logistics workforce.
“Much has been talked about Irish trading options, both cross border and with the rest of the UK, but logistics operators still need clarification on what exactly will be required of them,” continues Leheny. “Logistics is an agile industry, known for its ability to change and adapt to situations but any changes take time to plan and implement, and the clock really is on its final countdown now. If the goods which Northern Ireland’s economy relies upon are to keep moving freely, business deserves answers and that it is what we will be pressing the Prime Minister for today.”
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.