BIFA welcomes opportunity to consult on frontier issues, but queries some of the language used in government announcement


Midway through a 12-week government consultation, inviting comments on the Customs intermediary sector, the Simplified Customs Declaration Process (SCDP) and Transit facilitation, the British International Freight Association (BIFA) is encouraging its members to provide its views. The trade association for the UK’s forwarding and logistics sector says it hopes that the consultation indicates that government is ready to listen to and learn from those facilitating Britain’s trading relationship with the World.

BIFA Director General, Robert Keen, says that when the consultation was announced, some of the language used in the statement was seen by BIFA, and some of its members, as critical of existing participants. He says: “That’s one of the reasons that we are engaging on this important subject, consulting with our members to understand their views, and encouraging them to get involved.

“But we will also be reminding them that the consultation has been structured in such a way that a collective response from individual trade associations is not encouraged, and companies need to reply directly, and individually, should they wish to participate in the consultation.”

Keen continues: “The work of BIFA members and the systems they utilise and deploy, has been a major reason why work at the frontier has served trade well for many years. BIFA members are an important part of the organisations that have facilitated an unprecedented growth in trade levels and successfully coped with the twin challenges of new systems resulting from the UK’s exit from the EU, as well as the supply chain disruption stemming from the COVID pandemic.

“Asking them to ‘re-validate their importance to making the frontier work’, and ‘deliver the evidence that will determine whether the services they currently provide are easily accessible, high-quality and cost effective’ could be seen as language that does nothing to demonstrate how valued the forwarding sector has come to be seen over the last few years.

Furthermore, whilst BIFA acknowledges that there has been talk of a Single Trade Window (STW) for some time, and the commitment of £180 million is a clear indication of government intent, it also feels that currently there is a lack of clarity about its functionality and how it will be used.

Commenting on the government’s previously stated ambition to create “the most effective border in the world” by 2025, which was criticised in a recent parliamentary report for ‘lacking signifiant detail’, Keen added: “I would have expected a little more interest in getting a collective view from the trade association that represents those companies that have kept trade flowing during a very difficult few years, as a consequence of the impact on supply chains of the UK’s exit from the EU, as well as the COVID pandemic.”

BIFA believes that the UK’s exit from the EU has increased the administrative burden on those trading with our former EU partners, and those that manage the logistics activities, which underpin that trade.

Keen concludes: “The government has to offset this as much as it can by simplifying all global trade, including with the EU, and input of BIFA members into the consultation about the creation of a fully functioning and efficient STW will be key to this.”

“We hope it shows that government is ready to listen to the thoughts of BIFA members and learn from them.”