The Freight Transport Association (FTA) says it’s too early for the UK to quit the EU Customs Union, following calls from International Trade Secretary Liam Fox MP to speed up the process.
Responding to his comments that the UK should leave the union as soon as possible, the FTA warned this would create huge uncertainty for its shipper members and could have a massive impact on shipments of British goods into and out of the country.
“Quitting the EU Customs Union before there is something else to replace it would be premature,” said James Hookham, the FTA’s Deputy Chief Executive. The scope for border and customs officials in other member states to impose tariffs and other restrictions on British goods would be unlimited.
“It would be a free-for-all at the expense of British businesses. I am concerned that Liam Fox would suggest such a move at this time without offering the business a viable alternative.”
The EU Customs Union governs the flow of goods between the UK and other EU member states and ensures British shipments are taxed the same, if at all, as goods from other member states. Shippers of goods rely on the Community Customs Code for smooth transit of goods and to keep costs and other delays to a minimum.
Mr Hookham continued: “There is no alternative to the Customs Code right now and it will take years to negotiate something different so the Government needs to think through the impact of this move on the UK’s existing trade with EU countries.
“Over half the UK’s exports are with the EU single market so tearing up the arrangements that help ensure that goods get to customers without additional tariffs and paperwork burdens would be a huge risk to existing trade.
“We accept Brexit will eventually involve some disengagement from the existing trading arrangements with Europe but a ‘hard exit’ should not be at the cost of a hard landing for British shippers currently exporting there.”