It only took two days of Boris Johnson’s premiership for the Freight Transport Association to warn the industry that it needed to step up preparations for a no-deal Brexit.
Michael Gove, now Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, spelled out that fact that the government is working on the assumption of a no-deal Brexit. “No deal is now a very real prospect,” he wrote in an article in the “Sunday Times” (28th July).
This is quite transparently a ploy to try and gouge a better deal out of the EU. But if it doesn’t work, then the UK really will be crashing out of the European Union.
It’s a big gamble, but Boris Johnson is a gambler. He equivocated furiously in the run-up to the referendum in 2016 before finally coming down in favour of leaving. If the vote had gone the other way, David Cameron would still be prime minister and Johnson would be in the political wilderness.
His first bid to become prime minister failed in 2016, and Johnson ended up on the Tory back-benches under Theresa May. If she had managed to push her deal through, he would still be there.
Two big gambles have made Boris Johnson prime minister. A third big gamble, the No Deal gambit, could win him a better deal from the EU and cement his position in power.
But, like Johnson’s first bid to be prime minister, this gamble might backfire. So, for the rest of us, the only sensible choice now is to plan for a no-deal Brexit.
Last week the Freight Transport Association warned that exporters, importers, freight forwarders and logistics operators in the UK and those working internationally should be taking steps to understand what they may have to do, how it should be done and who they need to deal with to keep their operations flowing.
And the Road Haulage Association has called on the government to provide more help to enable companies to prepare.
There is a lot to be done. The Confederation of British Industry has published a list of 200 recommendations to accelerate no deal preparations in a document entitled ‘What comes next? The business analysis of no deal preparations’.
This warns that neither side is ready for No Deal on 31st October, and when it comes the movement of goods, many companies “are actually anticipated to be less prepared for no deal in October than in March, not least due to Black Friday and Christmas pressures”.
It points out that on three key elements of the movement of goods (customs, UK border, and haulage), the EU is not prepared and a negative impact is anticipated from day one.
The UK is a little better prepared, but there will still be some disruption, the CBI says. In fact, it reckons that out of 27 key areas of the UK economy, 24 would experience disruption.
Boris Johnson has promised that the UK will definitely leave the EU on 31st October.
It is not clear if Halloween will be a trick or a treat.
What is all too clear is that no-deal preparation must now be a priority.