Whilst the UK technically left the European Union (EU) back in January 2020, for 11-months we’ve actually been living within what they call the transition period. This transition period (sometimes known as implementation period) is a time for many to implement new processes or practices so when this period ends, UK businesses and others affected are ready for the changes that will inevitably come. However, the UK’s transition period is coming to end on the 31st of December 2020, and things aren’t looking as smooth and seamless as many hoped.
In preparation for these major changes in January 2021, the French authorities, Police Aux Frontières, rehearsed their new immigration procedures which in turn caused a 5-mile queue of trucks and lorries from Junction 11 on the M20 as they approached the Eurotunnel entrance. Under the Le Touquet agreement, they are authorised to conduct immigration checks at the UK side of both the tunnel and port. However, this could be a glimpse into the future as the Government issued a statement warning queues of up to 7,000 lorries on the main motorway routes as a worst-case scenario.
Worries and concerns are also emerging from hauliers using the Holyhead port. The BBC News state that many are concerned saying it could cause mayhem in the second largest ‘roll-on-roll-off’ port in the UK. With decisions still not being made on the English side, some believe problems will be dealt with reactively, when they unfold.
It’s not just the shipping industry and seaports these disruptions will be affecting. Builders and merchants are finding themselves short on supplies, from power tools to screws, as the gridlocked UK ports hold up crucial deliveries, as the realisation of what’s to come in January sinks in. The Guardian detailed that, “Since September, the country’s biggest container port, Felixstowe, has been handling about 30% more goods than usual, with businesses rushing to replenish stock after the end of Lockdowns and building stockpiles before the end of the Brexit transition period.”
With this being said, why aren’t we ready?
According to the National Audit Office (NAO) there could be a 40-70% proportion of lorries traveling to and from the EU that won’t be ready for the EU customs requirements, under the Government’s reasonable worst-case scenario. The unpreparedness of both the Government and businesses is one key element why ports will see major disruptions in 2021, but there’s another factor in it. For the new customs regime, a brand-new IT system called the Customs Declaration Service, has been designed to handle processing and will replace the older system. However, this new method has received some complaints saying it’s cumbersome and actually requires more time to complete a declaration than the older version. It is also reportedly incomplete and testing and training will not be implemented before the end of the transition period.
However, there could be a solution to reduce disruption whilst these IT systems and new procedures are ironed out. Due to the high possibility these seaports will see large delays and multitudes of queuing lorries, Birmingham Airport has announced they are to open a customs site, set to alleviate the predicted congestion. The Shropshire Star reported, the site will be situated on car park six and will allow heavy goods vehicles to be checked and cleared before heading to ports such as Dover and Folkestone. In order to help support Birmingham Airport and protect the drivers, premises and goods during this checking process, CLD Fencing Systems are playing an active role to keep safety and security a priority. Our foundation free temporary fencing is being supplied, offering Birmingham Airport permanent grade security but within a temporary format.
So, we are asking what needs to be implemented in order to reduce the disruption and impact it will have on the UK ports, businesses and those who may be affected? Should airports across the UK be following in Birmingham Airports footsteps to help ease disruptions?