UK transport industry calls for reconsideration of Brexit

U.K. voters woke this morning to what many are calling a vote of no confidence in British Prime Minister Theresa May and her Brexit agenda. On the campaign trail, May called this a “Brexit election,” and promised tough negotiations with Europe. Ultimately, that plan backfired and her party lost its majority.

With voters now clearly swinging away from support of Brexit, the Freight Transport Association (FTA), which represents the UK’s freight and logistics industry, is calling on the government to review its decision to leave the EU Customs Union. “It is now imperative that that the new government focuses its efforts on supporting the logistics sector to ensure that business can continue to trade efficiently with our EU customers and suppliers,” said James Hookham, FTA’s deputy CEO.

In The Washington Post, Anne Applebaum argued that voter’s willingness to cast their ballots for Jeremy Corbyn, a quasi-Marxist, left-wing politician with a controversial political track record suggested, among other things, that British voters were souring on Brexit.

One group in particular, young people, went to the polls in higher than average numbers. That same demographic is overwhelmingly anti-Brexit, and if their political engagement continues, the Tory agenda is in for a tough time. A exit poll had turnout among under-35 voters up by 12 points over 2015, to 56 percent. Nearly two-thirds of younger voters surveyed backed Labour, with Brexit being their primary concern.

At the same time, the FTA is warning that time spent campaigning for the general election has left the country unprepared for crucial Brexit negotiations. So, while it’s too soon to say conclusively if yesterday’s vote will scuttle the process, Hookham and the FTA are adamant that now is not the time to rush into leaving the customs union. Any sudden moves at this point would leave U.K. logistics weakened.

“Exiting the customs union threatens the imposition of tariffs, border checks, customs declarations and huge amounts of bureaucracy for the significant number of UK businesses that trade in the EU, and the logistics organizations that deliver it for them,” Hookham said. “Negotiating a replacement trade deal that avoids these would require a strong and convincing mandate, which the Election has now put into doubt.”

With Brexit negotiations slated to begin in less than two weeks, the FTA warned that it would be impossible for U.K. negotiators to deliver a frictionless trade deal for British business without the backing of voters, especially in the context of ongoing political uncertainty.

“Logistics is key to the successful delivery of the nation’s ongoing economic success and must be front and center as the talks get under way,” Hookham stressed.

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