At the United Kingdom Warehousing Association’s (UKWA) Annual Parliamentary Lunch, held recently at the House of Lords, UKWA CEO, Peter Ward, announced that the UK logistics industry is ready and willing to work closely with the Government to ensure that post-Brexit customs procedures do not stifle supply chain efficiency.

He was responding to guest speaker, Ben Fowler from HMRC, who outlined the government’s recently published Customs Bill paper and HMRC’s vision for future Customs arrangements, giving an indication of how legislation covering the UK’s future customs, VAT and excise regimes is likely to be framed.

As part of its planning, the Government is suggesting that extra inland customs clearance depots may need to be established to free up capacity in and around our ports, where possible by upgrading existing handling and distribution facilities – potential new opportunities for those in the warehousing and logistics sector.

Mr Fowler acknowledged UKWA’s input into post Brexit planning through its representative engagement in HMRC’s Joint Customs Consultative Committee, stressing the importance of consultation with those at the coalface through their trade associations and leading business organisations.

Hosted by UKWA President, Lord Brabazon of Tara, and sponsored by DP World London Gateway, UKWA’s House of Lords luncheon was attended by some 120 senior personnel from UKWA member companies along with key suppliers to the logistics industry and supply chain directors from some of the UK’s leading retailers, including John Lewis, Argos, Debenhams and Claire’s Accessories – all of whom are among the first retail companies to sign up to UKWA’s new membership category that allows retailers and manufacturers who have a critical interest in logistics to become part of the association.

“The House of Lords is a fitting venue to host an occasion with so many prominent and influential members of the UK’s logistics community,” said Peter Ward.

He added: “UKWA is the voice of the logistics industry and we are constantly exploring how best we can work collaboratively with the policy makers and other stakeholders to overcome the challenges confronting our sector.”

Members also heard about UKWA’s work with the Confederation of British Industry, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation and the British Retail Consortium in addressing the worsening labour and skills crisis.

“This was a problem before the referendum,” Ward said, “which has been exacerbated by Brexit and the weaker pound which is prompting an exodus of Eastern European labour on which our sector has relied for some years”.

On the Customs Bill Paper Ward commented that any additional intervention points in the supply chain are likely to be mitigated by the buffering of stock, which will result in the call for more warehousing space, echoing the notion that Brexit may be good news for the logistics sector.

“Whilst Brexit means we are, in effect dismantling the business processes and working practices that have evolved over 40 years, which will clearly present challenges, the logistics industry has shown time and again that it is more than capable of responding to the issues thrown up by the constantly shifting commercial and societal landscapes, and I am sure that this time will be no different.”