Shipper and logistics associations highlight the dangers within the UK government’s latest round of technical notices, outlining what will happen if the UK leaves the EU with ‘no deal’.

The Food and Drink Federation fear that consignments heading to the continent will require physical and documentation inspections as they enter the EU and within hours this will result in turmoil at Calais, which does not have a border inspection post.

A transport backlog will mean that essential imports from the EU will be similarly disrupted, with ferries, lorries and trains unavailable to transport food to this side of the Channel.

Anticipating such issues, the government’s notices suggest that hauliers and businesses should consider what contingency plans they need to have in place for the movement of goods if there are delays at ports, including:

Alternative routes to move goods by roll-on, roll-off haulage
Alternative modes of transportation, such as containerisation or unaccompanied trailers
Appropriate arrangements to allow for disruption to supply chains

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said it was astounded by the recommendation to consider alternative modes.

“Goods are moved by road because of speed and efficiency – the UK relies on its incredibly efficient supply chain for consumers and businesses to get the things they need,” said the RHA.

“This would very quickly put the manufacturing sector under severe pressure and the hauliers they rely on out of business.”

The RHA added that it was unclear whether EU hauliers would need permits to enter the UK, and that it was concerned over the lack of information on the Irish border.

The government notices comment on the issue of permits, suggesting that while EU member states may choose to allow UK haulage firms to operate – they may not.

And if not, UK hauliers would need to apply for a European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) permit scheme – but these are limited in number.

“We expect demand for ECMT permits will significantly exceed supply,” said the government note. Without elaborating on this bombshell.

If there is a ‘no deal’, the RHA attest it must be accompanied by the agreed implementation period to give businesses some chance to avoid chaos in the supply chain.

“Today’s technical notices lay bare the realities of a no-deal Brexit – more delays, extra costs and an explosion of red tape for retailers,” said the British Retail Consortium.

“We’re faced with the very real possibility of chaos at ports, putting a block on food imports and exports. The UK’s food supply chain is based on ‘just-in-time’ principles. There are big question marks about whether the government’s proposed new IT systems to help with food imports will be ready in time.

The Food and Drink Federation’s final word. “While the UK may not run out of food and drink, it will certainly be scarcer and more expensive.”