Forwarders step up to prepare for ‘hard Brexit’

Following the rejection of United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May’s European Union withdrawal agreement, in a statement today the British International Freight Association (BIFA) recommended its members prepare for what it expects will be “a hard Brexit.”

With the March 29 deadline for Brexit rapidly approaching, freight forwarders are facing the difficult fact that, in the absence of other indicators from the U.K. government, Brexit is likely to be disorderly, which BIFA views as “the worse outcome, as it is likely to increase trade barriers and impose significant restrictions on the exchange of goods between the E.U. and the U.K.”

BIFA director general Robert Keen added that freight forwarders, as the companies that handle most of the U.K.’s trade, “many of whom are Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) accredited, will play a key role in tidying up the mess left by politicians by ensuring U.K. importers and exporters can continue trading without undue disruption with the rest of Europe.”

In a separate statement following the failed vote, Swiss forwarder Kuehne + Nagel (K+N) also emphasized the importance of providing a post-Brexit framework for trade between the U.K. and E.U., while reiterating its stance that the preferred solution is still “No Brexit,” as any form of U.K. exit from the E.U. “is bound to increase trade barriers.”

K+N said it has already taken steps to accommodate additional barriers the forwarder expects to appear post-Brexit. Those include reviewing options for securing additional capacity on air and ocean trade routes with Europe outside of the Kent corridor – an area in southeastern England connecting London to the English Channel and Channel Tunnel – and recruitment of additional customs clerks.

In the meantime, forwarders are appealing to U.K. and E.U. officials to do everything they can to prevent a no-deal Brexit. In its statement, K+N said it was asked to participate in the U.K. Government Cross Border Steering Group, and will “use this opportunity to define sustainable solutions as the set of Brexit conditions becomes clearer.”

Those interested in learning more about air freight trends in the European region are invited to join us Cargo Facts EMEA, to be held 4-6 February at The Westin Grand Frankfurt, where a panel discussion will be dedicated to the topic. To register or for more information, visit

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