STATE OF PLAY

  With negotiations progressing slowly and risks of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit increasing, this week the Government launched a public consultation on reactivating ‘Operation Brock’, a traffic management system designed for thousands of lorries to park up on motorways across Kent in the event of tailbacks at the border. Under the new proposal, the Government will seek to ‘upstream’ the border readiness checking process to the point of loading by introducing a web-based portal for the smart freight (SF) service and a related app. While the SF portal’s system will be advisory across the country, the Government intends to introduce legislation to make its use enforceable in Kent, where disruption risks are higher, with hauliers planning to use the Short Straits being required to get a ‘Kent access permit’ (KAP) to access the ports. The government hopes that any disruption is “unlikely to extend much beyond the middle of 2021”, but it is seeking powers to maintain ‘Operation Brock’ until the end of October next year in case “disruption continues for longer than anticipated”.

Similarly, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has urged pharmaceutical companies in the UK to stockpile six weeks’ worth of drugs to guard against disruption at the end of the Brexit transition period. In a letter, Chief Commercial Officer Steve Oldfield also encouraged “companies … to review their own logistics arrangements and consider making plans for avoiding the short straits as a matter of priority.”

Separately, the Government has announced a new ‘Trader Support Service’ (TSS) system for moving goods into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. The system, which is established as a result of the Northern Irish Protocol, will be offered free of charge and will provide end to-end support to deal with import, safety and security declarations on behalf of traders. An initial GBP50 million will set up the service, with the full contract worth up to GBP200 million. An additional GBP155 million investment will fund the development of new technology to ensure the process can be fully digital and streamlined. The support scheme is due to become operational in September.

Presenting the new system in Northern Ireland, Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said that he was confident “that there will be a deal, I think there has been a welcome change in tone over the last few weeks. The omens are good for a deal. Now of course there is some tough talking to do. I believe that there will be a successful negotiated outcome.”  

 OTHER KEY DEVELOPMENTS

  – New analysis by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Eurostat has found that the number of UK nationals emigrating to other EU countries has risen by 30% since the Brexit referendum, with half making their decision to leave in the first three months after the vote in June 2016. A separate study by the Oxford in Berlin Research Partnership and the WZB Berlin Social Science Centre has found that Brexit has led to an exodus of economically productive people from the UK to EU nations on a scale that would normally be expected only as a result of a major economic or political crisis.

– Sussex University’s UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO) has found that the Government plans to build a network of 10 freeports after the end of the Brexit transition period are unlikely to have any material impact on the UK economy because duty savings are so small as to be “almost non-existent”.

 – The Chief Executive of the Chemical Industries Association (CIA), Steve Elliott, has warned that unless a data-sharing deal was done with Brussels, registering a single chemical in the new UK Reach database could cost up to GBP300,000 if companies are required to buy “letters of access” to use the banks of test data held by ECHA.

Many thanks for last weeks Brexit transition round-up compiled by public affairs and communications consultant Nicky Donnelly.