Keep calm and carry on

Keep calm and carry on... for now

Head of Consumer Research | ParcelHero

Brexit is here, but freight operators are still entirely in the dark about what to expect, says ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT (pictured above, inset). He believes the Government’s £100 million Brexit information campaign was largely about a no-deal Brexit; and logistics operators have been given few facts about what happens during and after the new transition period.

It has happened. At 11pm, on 31 January, Britain officially left the European Union (EU). But freight companies looking for advice on how to proceed are working largely in the dark for now. The Government’s Brexit website, which it spent £100m on promoting last year, now contains virtually no information for exporters, importers and people planning to send a parcel to the EU after the 31st.

The Government spent £100m on an advertising campaign last autumn which concentrated on what exporters and freight companies should do in the event of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October 2019. However, last-minute negotiations meant that did not, of course, happen. With a hard Brexit at least shelved until the end of this year, companies and individuals should be aware almost all of the no-deal advice they had been reading on the site no longer applies.

As we emerge blinking into the new post-Brexit world, instead of launching into a new regime of customs invoices and tariff codes, we find there will in fact be no immediate changes. Businesses will carry on sending items and receiving them from the EU just as they did before. This year-long transition period will continue until December 2020. 

During this period the procedures for exporting and importing goods and parcels stays broadly the same as now. The Government’s site has virtually no information on what happens after 2020, either; because only the bare bones of the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU have been agreed upon. It simply urges exporters to obtain an EORI number: advice Freight Industry Times was issuing back in 2017. The exact conditions and regulations under which we will continue to trade with the EU will only be thrashed out during the course of the year. So, to be clear, there are no new customs’ checks, paperwork or tariffs, for either businesses exporting goods or individuals wishing to send a parcel. It's very much a case of 'Keep calm and carry on,' for now.

And the same also applies to importers and anyone waiting for a parcel from the EU. Importers and online shoppers ordering items from the EU won’t pay any tariffs or duties on items sent from the EU this year, though again the situation is still very unclear beyond 2020.

What exactly is likely to happen after 2020? The Government wants “zero tariffs and zero quotas”, but whether it can successfully negotiate this has yet to be determined. It’s being very bullish currently about wanting a Canada-style free trade deal. That means it won’t have to conform to many of the EU’s social and trade regulations, and escapes tariffs. But if it can’t reach agreement on such a deal, Prime Minister Johnson says he is happy with an Australia-style agreement – in other words trading under WTO rules. Under both scenarios we are looking at customs and VAT checks, which could mean significant delays for freight operators, and under the ‘Australian option’ there will be import tariffs on many goods traded between the EU and the UK as well.

With the possibility that UK manufacturing and packaging regulations could diverge from EU regulations – perhaps returning to misguided plans for a new UKCA CE-safety mark replacement – all international shippers can do is hold their breath. But for now, at least, things remain unchanged.

ParcelHero is keeping its essential international courier services guide constantly updated to cover all changes in regulations and prices.

Main photograph courtesy ParcelHero/copyright iStock