U.K. makes concrete E.U. trade-relations proposals anticipating Brexit

Just before President Trump made his first state visit to the U.K., the British government finally released a long-awaited document containing tangible plans for its trade relations with European Union countries.  With the U.K.’s departure from the E.U. set to take place in eight months, the nation’s forwarding community is giving the plan mixed reviews.

The white paper, which many Britons are calling the most important update since the original referendum was decided in June 2016, recommends new protocols between the soon-to-be-separate markets for military cooperation, immigration and trade – a word that is mentioned more than 150 times in its 98 pages.

One prominent proposal in the document regarding trade is the “common rulebook,” which is intended to remove the need for time-consuming standards checks on cross-border cargo, appealing to the logistics industry. However, U.K.-based stakeholders won’t like the “facilitated customs arrangement,” which would allow the nation to remain in the E.U. customs union, but in turn, would mean paying both U.K. and E.U. tariffs for goods entering Britain.

Robert Keen, general director of the British International Freight Association (BIFA) representing U.K.-based forwarders, said the proposals  in which the U.K. would apply E.U. tariffs to E.U. goods passing through the U.K., “look complex and untested.”

Keen added: “Other than a facilitated customs arrangement, I suspect that there will be other areas where there will be differences of opinion between the U.K. and E.U. Notwithstanding the above, it is the most comprehensive and cogent proposal put forward by the U.K. Government to date and is a useful basis for negotiation with the E.U.”

The document still awaits parliamentary process and is subject to change. Industry members in the U.K. likely will be crossing their fingers that these somewhat “soft” proposals for trade-relations will come to fruition.

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