Wednesday 25 March 2020 4:45 pm

Logistics industry calls on government to extend Brexit transition period to ease pressure on sector

The UK’s logistics sector body the Freight Transport Association (FTA) is calling on the government to extend the current Brexit transition period to allow firms to concentrate on tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement, the industry body said that “the challenges posed by the Covid-19 virus will make the effective implementation of any new legislation impossible in the short term”.

The FTA’s policy director, Elizabeth de Jong, stressed that the petition was not a political one:

“This is not about the relative merits of Brexit, or any trading arrangements which our industry will need to adopt. 

“This is purely and simply so the businesses tasked with keeping the UK’s supply chain intact can concentrate on the serious issues which the Covid-19 pandemic is placing on the industry”.

The UK currently bound by law to leave the EU on the 31 December, when the existing transition period expires.

The logistics sector is under extreme pressure at the moment to keep supply chains open in order to restock supermarket shelves as consumers stock up on supplies due to stringent restrictions on movement.

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De Jong added: “Logistics is facing unprecedented challenges, both in terms of keeping the UK economy supplied with all the goods it needs to function, as well as coping with the increased disruption to staffing levels caused by sickness and self-isolation and concerns about the viability of their businesses’.

Borders have been shut across Europe as governments clamp down on travel in order to suppress the spread of the virus.

In addition to Brexit transition extension, the FTA, which represents businesses in the road, air and rail freight industries, has called for the suspension other legislation which will affect logistics firms in the short term. 

This includes the expansion of the London-wide low emission zone for HGVs, as well as the start of other clean air zones around the country, in areas including Birmingham and Leeds.

Last week the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier confirmed he had contracted the illness, leading to concerns that the exit process would have to be delayed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has thus far insisted that there will be no move to extend the transition period during the coronavirus pandemic.

City A.M. has contacted Downing Street for comment.