Only one in five UK companies would be able to undertake the complex processes necessary to trade with the EU after a no deal Brexit, according to a survey of supply chain managers published on Wednesday.
The disclosure about the low level of preparedness comes a day after documents leaked to the Financial Times showed that disruption to EU trade would be exacerbated because ports would turn away trucks without the right paperwork rather than let them queue at the dockside.
The leaked Department for Transport documents suggested tens of thousands of trucks would be turned away from ports, something that is corroborated in the latest Brexit survey by the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (Cips).
The companies were asked whether they had an EORI number necessary to interact with EU customs authorities, could fill in a customs declaration accurately, had agreed responsibilities with a customs agent or logistics provider and could identify software for submitting documents if they managed the process themselves.
The results showed that only 22 per cent of the UK companies with EU suppliers have completed these four basic steps necessary to fill in correct paperwork for a basic export of goods to the EU under a no deal Brexit.
This was only marginally better than the 14 per cent figure recorded in March this year. John Glen, economist at Cips, said the findings showed “with the Brexit deadline just weeks away, the government faces an uphill battle to get businesses ready in time”.
The survey also showed that companies were importing goods early in the hope of avoiding Brexit-related disruption, but almost one in ten were struggling to find warehouse space.
Spare warehouse capacity has almost dried up in Britain, according to the UK Warehousing Association, which estimates that storage space equivalent to just two days’ freight inbound through Dover is now available.
However, inquiries for warehouse space are now at about half the level they were at the corresponding time before the March Brexit deadline. Peter Ward, UKWA’s chief executive, said in part this reflected Brexit fatigue among companies that were not sure what to prepare for, but it was also owing to companies already having stockpiled for leaving the EU.
According to Mr Ward, capacity was also tight because it was the busy pre-Christmas season. “The 31 October deadline couldn’t have come at a worse time, clashing with peak season in logistics in the run-up to Christmas, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” he said.
UKWA members collectively operate 7.5m sq ft of warehousing in the UK. “Stockpiling has continued, and the market generally is running close to capacity,” Mr Ward said.
“We’re now seeing the start of the government’s Prepare for Brexit campaign with warnings appearing on motorway gantry signs; our evidence suggests that business is less than 50 per cent prepared for a hard Brexit on 31 October.”
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