With less than ten days until the Brexit deadline, the dangers of a last-minute deal have come to the forefront.
This includes comments from The Parliamentary Group which warned ministers about the implications of the “very, very late” trade deal. The Brexit Select Committee Chair, Hilary Benn, also stated that the delayed agreement “is the biggest problem given that we left the European Union at the beginning of the year.”
Mr Benn also explained the difficulty that businesses are facing in regard to planning, as he described the government’s advice as “patchy at best”. This comes as haulage delays and supermarket stockpiling have increased as parts of the UK move into tier four.
Delayed Lorry Deliveries
One industry that has already faced difficulty is the transport and logistics sector, with lorry tailbacks occurring as a direct result of COVID restrictions. Major transport hubs in Dover and Holyhead in Wales have experienced delays with freight drivers heading to the Eurotunnel in large numbers.
Lorry drivers and other vehicles in the surrounding area have been caught in major traffic jams, which was escalated by the border closures. This has been worsened by Christmas stockpiling along with uncertainty surrounding Brexit talks.
France also closed its borders to haulier and lorries in order to prevent the spread which many believe offers a taster of what is to come in 2021. Widespread footage of long lines of HGVs and freight vehicles have been posted online, with MEP Guy Verhofstadt uploading a video of a major traffic jam in Dover.
They will now start to understand what leaving the EU really means…
This has not only caused traffic holdups but has also caused delays in one of the busiest times of the year.
Stockpiling and panic buying has been a regular occurrence since the start of the COVID pandemic in March. However, this has not been a problem in the last few months until the border closures’ announcement as well as strict lockdowns placed on Tier 4 locations such as London and the South East of England.
Ministers have reportedly advised Supermarkets to stockpile goods in order to prepare for a potential no-deal situation, as well as panic-buying due to the announcement of the new COVID strain. A senior consultant for one of the major supermarkets stated “Supermarkets and ministers are hugely worried about panic-buying.”, which they have already experienced during COVID. However, a no-Brexit could worsen the situation.
The director of food and sustainability, Andrew Opie discussed the primary impact of Brexit.
The main impact [of] Brexit will be on imported produce, such as much fruit and vegetables which cannot be stored for long periods by either retailers or customers.
The encouragement regarding stockpiling may be a short-term solution for maintaining stock, however, many warehouse owners have warned maxed-out spaces due to Pre-Brexit and COVID panic-buying. This has resulted in a surge in demand for warehouse space, especially chilled storage which is extremely scarce and is expected to worsen. This is backed up by the Chartered Institute of Logistics Chief Executive, Mick Curran, who discussed how “Brexit will exacerbate the problem.” with or without a deal.
Many have called for an agreement extension for the Brexit transition period amid the COVID pandemic, especially since the announcement of the new strain. This includes the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon who agreed with this notion, stating the COVID virus “demands our 100% attention. It would be unconscionable to compound it with Brexit.”
Despite this call for action, Michael Barnier, the European Commission’s Head of Task Force for Relations with the UK, discussed the “final push” regarding Brexit talks. However, no official timescale has been given, and talks are expected to exceed past Christmas, as ITV’s Political Editor, Robert Peston confirmed there is “no chance of a deal” before the 25th, although there is still hope regarding a deal, despite the 11 pm deadline on the 31st of December.[Header image: The National News]