Industry leaders asked the UK government 31 urgent questions about Brexit and have received no answers

  • The UK logistics sector is still waiting to hear back after sending Boris Johnson's government 31 urgent questions on his Brexit plans in November.
  • The questions relate to what will happen to Britain's borders after December if there is no free trade agreement with the EU in place.
  • Not one of the questions have been answered.
  • Johnson this week said it was "epically likely" that UK and EU negotiators would secure a new free trade deal by the end of the transition period.
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The UK government has not answered any of the urgent questions put to it by the logistics industry about what will happen to Britain's borders if there is no new trade deal with the European Union at the end of the year. Documents seen by Business Insider show that the Freight Transport Association, which represents the UK logistics sector, submitted 31 questions o key departments in Boris Johnson's government. They cover what will happen to trade between the UK and EU if there is no free trade agreement in place at the end of the transition period in December, and how the protocol dealing with Northern Ireland will work in practice.

The documents were first given to government officials back in November and then formally submitted to Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove, plus ministers in the Department for Exiting the EU, before UK Parliament broke up for the Christmas break. The association also submitted them to HMRC and the Border Delivery Group. The government has at the time of writing not answered any of the questions, the documents suggest.

The status of each question is coloured red, which means the logistics sector is still waiting for acknowledgement from the government. Yellow means the question has been acknowledged and being worked on, while green indicates it has been answered. Questions put to the government include:

  • Will traffic-management plans such as Operation Brock be revived?
  • Will the UK be able to negotiate a comprehensive air transport agreement, maintaining air connectivity?
  • What arrangements will apply for cross-border rail freight?
  • What solution will be in place for road haulage to, from, on and through the EU, beyond ECMT permits?
  • How will rules of origin be managed in relation to products partly produced in the EU & Northern Ireland?

The Freight Transport Association has also asked the government to clarify what the UK's tariff regime will be if the country leaves the transition period without a trade agreement with the EU.

Other questions cover a range of border checks and how EU citizens who are temporary workers in the UK logistics industry would be affected.  Figures in the UK logistics industry fear that they will not begin to receive clarity from the government until after Prime Minister Johnson has carried out a re-shuffle of his ministers, which is expected to take place next month. Business Insider has asked the UK government for comment.

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Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, set to become law in the next few weeks, the UK will enter an 11-month transition period on February 1, during which it will continue to follow EU market and customs rules.

Prime Minister Johnson this week said it was "epically likely" that UK and EU negotiators will negotiate a new free trade deal by the end of the transition period, and has ruled out extending the period beyond December 2020. However, the Institute For Government think tank this week warned it was totally possible that the UK could exit the transition period without new trading arrangements with the EU in place. For British businesses, this outcome would be "almost identical" to a no-deal Brexit, the IfG's new report said, as it would lead to swathes of new barriers to trade with the EU.

Rosie Duffield, a Labour MP in Kent, where the UK's port of Dover is based, told Business Insider: "It is really disappointing to see the government has failed to address the large number of valid concerns the logistics industry has over the prospect of being left without a free trade deal by the end of the year." She added: "It is imperative we have a workable set of contingency plans in place before the end of the blink-and-you'd-miss-it 11-month transition period." Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrats' Brexit spokesperson, said: "We know that Boris Johnson will struggle to secure a free trade deal in time, but like Theresa May, he has backed himself into a corner with ridiculous red lines.

"If he is so confident in his plans he should be honest with the British public about what they will do to our logistics industry." The IfG also warned that the protocol covering Northern Ireland's relationship with Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland "almost certainly" won't be ready by the end of December.

13 of the 31 questions put to government by the Freight Transport Association relate to the protocol. Under the protocol, Northern Ireland will leave the EU's customs union and single market but continue to follow their rules for at least a few years, in order to avoid checks at the border with the Republic of Ireland.

This arrangement is set to create new friction for trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Naomi Smith, CEO of campaign group Best For Britain, told Business Insider: "For all the Boris bullishness of getting Brexit done, the reality is his government is no closer to actually resolving the long standing logistical problems created by leaving the EU.

"With this level of ill-preparedness, the best thing he could do now, is to start by seeking the closest possible relationship with our EU partners."

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