British and European negotiators are meeting Tuesday for yet another round of Brexit trade talks.
The two sides have to reach a deal by October 31 for it to be ratified by the end of the year, when Britain’s withdrawal from the European single market comes into effect. For companies that do cross-Channel business, the looming deadline and current lack of clarity is leaving them in the dark.
The Brexit transition ends in just a few months. For importers and exporters in the European Union and the UK, the outbreak of COVID-19 has derailed negotiations and thrown a spanner in the works.
Natalie Chapman of Logistics UK says customs checks and systems will be some of the major hurdles ahead:
“It’s going to be a huge challenge in order to fully leave the EU at the end of the year. There’s an awful lot of detail that still needs to be resolved.”
“No one knows what’s coming”
Dan Van Der Knaap of Dutch Quality Flowers travels from the Netherlands to Britain every day to deliver flowers – a perishable product that relies on swift travel.
“I do worry because I don’t know what’s coming,” he told Euronews. “There’s nothing sure, there’s nothing 100 per cent which makes me worried as well because no one knows what is coming.”
The big picture is that for many logistics companies – those responsible for organising the movement of large quantities of goods – the desire is to see an extension to the transition period.
‘Nothing is ready’
For four years, UK freight and logistics companies have been concerned about Brexit. Coronavirus has now added an extra layer of concern for the companies that rely on there being the smooth movement of goods between Europe and the UK.
One company in Felixstowe, England, says European hauliers are reticent to commit to contracts beyond the end of this year.
“My biggest fear now,” says Jon Sparrow from Jordan Freight Logistics, “is that the system will collapse at the end of the year. Nothing is ready – the IT systems aren’t ready, customs aren’t ready due to COVID. My fear is hauliers, if they don’t want to come here, we’ve got a serious problem.”
The question remains whether the UK and Europe will be ready for Brexit by the end of the year.
To watch Luke Hanrahan’s report, click on the media player above.