UK Withdrawal Fails to Dampen Freight Uncertainty

(Europe) Freight Sector ‘Nervous’ over Potential Deal

Following the official withdrawal of the UK from the European Union on Jan. 31, uncertainty remains for breakbulk operators over the nature of the country’s future trading relation with the bloc.

With muted observance in London as the EU lowered the British flag in Brussels last Friday, the future for freight operators crossing the channel still appears opaque, as industry bodies called for greater clarity and insight.

“In light of the change that will likely take place in the trading relationship between the UK and the rest of the Europe, and the lack of any significant details on how that might change, BIFA members remain a little nervous,” said Robert Keen, director general of the British International Freight Association.

Withdrawal Agreement Ratified

Since ratification of the withdrawal agreement, the UK government has been bullish, but commentators remain skeptical over the timeframe to achieve any deal if the UK does not remain closely aligned to the EU.

“Whilst the government has often stated that it desires a 'zero tariff, zero quota' trade deal, many suggest that trying to achieve that before the end of 2020 is a very tight schedule, and the prospect of a no-deal scenario at the end of 2020 is by no means off the table,” Keen said.

BIFA is an industry association run by its members and represents UK breakbulk operators and companies engaged in the international movement of freight. 


UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson meanwhile has upped the stakes, talking of potentially zero alignment with the EU as talks get underway to meet the end-of-year deadline to avoid WTO tariffs.

“We have made our choice – we want a free trade agreement, similar to Canada's, but in the very unlikely event that we do not succeed, then our trade will have to be based on our existing Withdrawal Agreement with the EU,” Johnson said.

Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank, called for “an orderly” departure and promised to ensure Brexit “causes as little disruption as possible” for citizens, employers and financial markets.