Scrapping “Kermits”, fines, mountains of custom documents, driver shortages, phased implementation and new shipping routes are all part of post-Brexit trade…with lots more changes to come.
In late April, the British government removed with great fanfare a much-maligned bit of Brexit trade-related bureaucracy, when authorities scrapped “Kermits.”
In order to drive through the county of Kent, truck drivers were required to obtain permits that proved the haulers had pre-cleared customs to the European Union, and several hundred had been fined £300 (pounds) each for not having the paperwork. Kent is where both Dover and the Eurotunnel are located. The M20 motorway leading to the vital Channel crossing at Dover was a nightmarish scene of monumental traffic jams in the days leading up to January 1, when Brexit took effect. The French, worried about the spread of a new strain of COVID-19, closed their ports to haulers from Britain for two days beginning December 21.
In lifting the need for Kent access permits, commonly known as “Kermits,” the Department for Transportation trumpeted what it said was “normal levels” of trade.
True, traffic may have been operating well. However, that belied all sorts of post-Brexit realities: The British government delayed customs checks on imports until January 1, 2022. Covid-19had decimated tourist traffic between Britain and the EU. A truck driver shortage, made more acute by Covid-19, has limited the number of available haulers. And, British exports had plummeted. That was made all the worse because, in part, truck drivers were refusing to take loads to Continental Europe, fearing long delays, and in part because traders recoiled from the time-consuming process of clearing cargo for export.
More than a half year after Brexit ended borderless trade between the UK and the EU, the best that can be said about commerce and logistics is that it hasn’t been nearly as horrific as some had feared and those December traffic jams had presaged.
“There were a lot of people at the start of January who were saying that the supply chain to Northern Ireland was going to collapse within five days, crazy statements like that,” said Seamus Leheny, policy manager for Northern Ireland at Logistics UK, a trade association representing freight transport. “Over 200 days later, the supply chain hasn’t collapsed. It’s got stronger. And that shows the resilience of the industry.”
But that doesn’t mean it’s now completely smooth going. What’s more, much of what the British government has blithely labeled “teething problems” appears to be around for the long term.
“Things have changed and they’ve changed for good,” said Aidan Flynn, general manager of the Freight Transport Association Ireland.
But Flynn and others emphasize that logistics on both sides of the new UK-EU border are adapting as best it can. Routes are being refined and changed. Methods and procedures were tinkered with and improved. It’s driven digitization and advanced tracking and tracing, for example. It’s forced shippers and haulers alike to become…
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