“‘I expect respect from the EU” – these were the words of Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday in a speech to assembled reporters at Downing Street.

Amidst ongoing negotiations over the UK’s exit deal from the European Union, May said for leaders to reject her Chequers plan with no alternative at this “late stage of negotiations” was “not acceptable”.

Her comments come as talks have reportedly reached an “impasse” that May said required “serious engagement” from the EU side if a deal were to be reached.

May told EU leaders “neither side should demand the unacceptable of the other”.

European Council President Donald Tusk said a “compromise” was possible but the UK proposals needed to be “reworked” if a deal is to be reached.

An agreement must be reached by November in order for it to be ratified in time for the UK’s departure date on 29 March 2019.

“Chequers is a dead duck”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has criticised May’s combative approach as “dreadful” and “hugely damaging”.

“The EU’s view of the Chequers plan was bluntly and clearly expressed in Salzburg yesterday, but should not have come as a surprise to the UK Government, given that it was not a new position,” she told reporters.

She went on to say that now “Chequers is a dead duck”, if May were to “double down” on her proposals and blame the EU for a no-deal outcome, then “she will do huge damage to all of those she is supposed to serve.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has reiterated that “no deal is not an option” and criticised the government’s approach, stating that May’s strategy has been a “disaster” and that Conservatives have “spent more time arguing among themselves” than negotiating with the EU. Interestingly though, Corbyn called for both the Prime Minsiter and the EU to bring an end to the “political games”, suggesting he and the Labour Party do not lay the blame for the delay in reaching a deal solely on May.

The Industry Reacts – split opinion in the logistics sector

As with much of the general public, opinion over Brexit remains split. Those blessed with unbridled optimism believe that the UK will be able to continue a positive relationship with the EU whilst simultaneously establishing itself in firm control of new customs arrangements worldwide. Becoming a global trading nation, with streamlined processes unrestricted by EU regulation, could be a solution to the UK’s economic future.

Alternatively, many take the position that Brexit will be disastrous for the road haulage and logistics sectors, as agreements that facilitate the delivery of over 90% of all goods in Britain wil be broken in the event of a no-deal Brexit, with a devastating economic and social impact.

Either way, the impact of Brexit will be monumental, and businesses must be as prepared as possible for all eventualities.

David Johnson, Managing Director of Leeds-based Tudor International Freight, said with less than 200 days until the UK leaves the EU, affected importers and exporters broadly needed to bring their processes and documentation for trading with the bloc into line with those applying to nations elsewhere now.

“The possibility of no withdrawal agreement being concluded in the talks involving the EU and UK seems to have risen sharply up the list of possible outcomes in recent weeks. If this happens, the free circulation of goods between the two will cease in March 2019 and there will be immediate changes to importing and exporting procedures, as the envisaged 20-month transition period won’t apply,” he said.

Johnson said these amendments would almost certainly include tariffs being imposed, import and export declarations being required, customs checks taking place and any VAT and customs duties due having to be paid.

He said: “There are several steps affected businesses should take now that could help reduce shipping delays and other problems they may encounter after a ‘no deal’ result.

“These include ensuring comprehensive CMR notes are used for all consignments transported by road to and from the EU. Such documents should contain detailed and precise content concerning shippers and consignees, for example.”

A CMR note – the abbreviation being derived from its French name – is the standard contract for transporting goods internationally by road. Containing a set of terms and conditions, and therefore making it unnecessary for individual businesses to devise their own, it is a consignment note confirming the carrier has received the goods and has a transportation contract with its customer.

Johnson also advised traders with the EU to ensure they now prepare “full and accurate commercial invoices.”

“It is important that all descriptions of goods are sufficient for the appropriate customs commodity codes to be identified and applied. These classify items for import and export, so businesses can complete declarations and other paperwork correctly, check if there is any duty or VAT to pay, and discover whether any duty reliefs apply, for instance.”

He concluded: “Effective contingency planning involves preparing for the worst-case scenario and we would therefore urge affected businesses to seek advice where necessary and take the steps we have outlined now, so they are protected to the greatest extent possible from the adverse consequences of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.”