The UK Warehousing Association has broadly welcomed the government’s ramping up of no deal preparations using a new £2.1bn funding package, although CEO Peter Ward says more detail is urgently required regarding how funds will be spent.
“As we have 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,” he said. “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. Our 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. Members already operate within the demanding regulations for food handling and inspection could simply become part of the process.”
He added that the logistics and warehousing sector is already in growth mode as online shopping continues to decimate the high street and logistics businesses are investing in more space anyway as a future-proofing exercise. However, the main challenge remains labour, Ward said.
“Unfortunately, 31st October coincides with peak season for many of our members as retailers gear up for Black Friday and Christmas. The major problem we have seen in the sector is sourcing labour. So-called ‘Brexodus’ has severely exacerbated an already serious problem and the falling pound looks likely to drive more immigrant labour away. Therefore, our message to 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-skill low-cost labour. With low youth unemployment figures in the UK, we’re looking to the EU to supplement our workforce.”
UKWA is in consultation with HM Government’s Border Delivery Group to provide insight from the industry and to gather latest information on no-deal preparations to disseminate to its members.