Marie Boyer is Managing Director of France Line International Transport Ltd, the Manchester-based freight forwarder that specialises in cross channel and European road freight and customs services. Here, Marie looks at the changing relationship between the UK and EU. Recent data released by HMRC shows that a third of UK goods exporters who exported to Europe in 2020 stopped doing so in 2021.
“They didn’t do this on a whim. The high drop can only be attributed to the extra red tape UK businesses must now comply with when exporting to the EU, compounded by increased costs for customs documents and the lack of support from the Government in helping organisations navigate the post-Brexit trading minefield. The new data was published just as Liz Truss became the fourth Conservative prime minister in six years, and as our longest-serving monarch reached the end of her reign. The country now faces two big and important changes at a time of economic crisis. Businesses have been impacted by the sharp rise in energy prices and inflation, with more challenges on the way.”
A matter of Truss
“It is an understatement to say I’m concerned about the new PM’s impact on our industry. As Foreign Minister, she has agreed poor trade deals and showed a lack of understanding and sensitivity to the UK’s main foreign trading relationships in Europe and America. During the French President’s tribute to the Queen, Mr Macron talked about the deep underlying ties between France and the UK. In contrast, Liz Truss was hesitant over whether the French president and France are friends or foes.
“In her first PMQs the Prime Minister said that, during any negotiation with the EU, they would have to deliver on the substance of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill. But why would the EU agree to a compromise that undermines their core principles and strategic objectives? I doubt they will. It’s a strange track record for someone who was once a ‘remainer’. I do fear that if she goes about implementing the policies she championed during the Tory leadership contest, Liz Truss could trigger a trade war with the EU. Certainly, my understanding is that the EU fears things are likely to get worse with London before they get better. You may not share my politics. But I doubt anyone within our industry would look at the post-Brexit landscape and feel that – from a trade, freight or bureaucracy perspective – things are better than they were before. It is, however, where we are, so what are we doing about it?”
Building new relationships
“We’re working hard to help our customers by offering different types of transport services and transit times to suit their (increasingly tight) budgets. We’ve made our prices as competitive as they have ever been. We’ve been offering our freight customers advice on customs documents and reliable customs services. We are doing everything we can to help our customers develop and maintain a good supply chain and deliver a good service to their European buyers.
“But it’s hard, because Britain has never seemed more hellbent on burning its European relationships, no matter how damaging that approach may clearly be. So I’m grateful for small mercies, such as the news that Liz Truss is mulling over President Macron’s proposed invitation to his fledgling European Political Community. It wouldn’t affect trade – the community will be established to address matters such as energy security and migration – but it might start to repair some of the strained relations between Britain and the EU and Paris in particular since Brexit. Perhaps membership will help us realise that it really is in all our best interests to find a way to work together.”