Britain’s five largest business groups have warned the Government that firms face “substantial difficulties” at UK ports since the end of the EU Transition period, with the prospect of a “significant loss of business” if the situation is allowed to continue.
Following a round table meeting on Thursday with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, a letter was issued by the Federation of Small Businesses, the CBI, the British Chambers of Commerce, Make UK, and the Institute of Directors.
The joint statement by the B5 business groups followed a meeting of the Brexit Taskforce with the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP on Thursday, January 28.
The full statement said:
The B5 (British Chambers of Commerce, Confederation of British Industry, Federation of Small Businesses, Institute of Directors and Make UK) were very pleased to discuss a range of issues with Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, today at a meeting of the Brexit Taskforce.
The meeting was constructive, and we were pleased to have the opportunity to set out to Government the range and scale of the challenges our members are facing across the country as they seek to understand and adapt to the new requirements for doing business with the EU and Northern Ireland. A range of problems were discussed, including the substantial difficulties faced by firms adapting to the new customs processes, sizeable obstacles to moving goods through the Dover-Calais route and the shortage of informed advice from both government and specialist advisors alongside a number of others. It was recognised by all parties that the level of activity remained low post-Christmas and that further problems might appear as volumes begin to increase once stockpiled supplies were exhausted. Concerns were also raised on further disruption to trade flows when grace periods fall away in the coming months.
Turning to cross border trade in services, attendees stressed the importance for Government to make good on the deal’s provision for mutual recognition of professional qualifications, data adequacy and continued cooperation on financial services.
These points were acknowledged and responded to positively by Mr Gove. A range of solutions were discussed, including the provision of transition vouchers to help smaller businesses access the advice they need, an injection of effort into the training of customs agents and a wider measure of business support activity to ensure these challenges are overcome and do not lead to a significant reduction of business across borders with the EU, at various ports and crossings around GB, as well the NI/Ireland border.
The B5 look forward to further and swift engagement as Government and Business look to work together to tackle these problems collectively.