The British International Freight Association (BIFA) is calling on the UK government to request an extension to the Brexit transition period.
As the coronavirus crisis takes hold throughout Europe, conversations about Brexit have fallen by the wayside. Robert Keen, director general of BIFA said that with negotiations between the EU and UK now stalled, he believes that if the UK does not seek to extend the transition period, it will not have the time to negotiate a deal that covers anything more than the bare minimum of trade arrangements.
Keen said: “The government is still insisting it will not request an extension, saying the December 31 deadline is enshrined in law, but whilst Boris Johnson might insist that Brexit is done, we know from our regular meeting with government departments that there is a huge amount left in the civil service’s EU exit in-trays, and everybody is completely overwhelmed with the crisis.
“BIFA members, which are responsible for managing the movement of a large proportion of the UK’s visible international trade, share the uncertainty of others about how the coronavirus crisis will affect trade in future.”
He added: “This is not an argument about leaving the EU. That is done and dusted. This is an argument about managing the transition process when not just the goalposts, but the entire playing field has moved.
“Pre Covid-19, it is true that our members faced a situation with more time to prepare for a potential no deal. Now, those members have been knocked sideways by the virus, and will be less well placed to adapt to a second shock if there is significant change in the terms of trade with the EU at the end of the year, because the government has stuck to its guns over the transition period.
“The crisis caused by Covid-19 is delivering much greater understanding of the key role of freight forwarders to the authorities and the wider audience that rely on the commodities being delivered through international supply chains.
“Now in these very difficult times, it is important that the government listens to the freight transport sector, puts politics to one side and seeks an extension to the transition period.”