Supply chain leaders have voiced their frustration that they are still unable to plan for Brexit because they do not know what form it will take.
Industry members taking part in the annual Richmond Supply Chain Forum, held last week on the eve of the original March 29 Brexit day, said that many had not yet invested in significant Brexit measures because it is still the case that no-one knows exactly what form it will take.
David Jinks, head of consumer research at international delivery specialists ParcelHero, chaired the debate. He said: “Logistics professionals rightly pride themselves on their adaptability and problem-solving abilities. But both our expert panel and the delegates from many of Britain’s leading exporters and retailers were shocked that our carefully timed 11th hour debate was suddenly more an 11th week debate, following Brexit’s dramatic rescheduling until April 12 or My 22 or beyond! Panellists and audience alike agreed that business can plan for all forms of Brexit, from no deal to May’s deal to a Customs Union, but what they cannot plan for is ongoing uncertainty.”
Jinks reports that panel members, who included Ian Ferguson, head of supply chain at Iceland, Neil Gould, of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport and a director at Braid, Kevin Mofid, director, commercial research at Savilles, and Alex Veitch head of multimodal policy at the Freight Transport Association, had a “frank and fascinating” discussion on what measures the industry had taken to mitigate the impact of Brexit.
"Contrary to accepted wisdom, our panel revealed stockpiling is not taking place on any significant scale, with only a handful of large warehouse deals being signed with Brexit storage in mind," he said. "Delegates and panellists agrees most supermarkets and food retailers would find stockpiling even a week’s supplies of perishable products extremely expensive, ineffective and disruptive to existing supply chains.”
Meanwhile, Jersey Post has trialled post-Brexit plans, in order to ensure that retailers sending post from the Channel Island – or using Jersey as a forward base for exports – can get their items to their final destination on time.
At the moment post sent from Jersey to Europe travels north to the UK before travelling through the Channel Tunnel, and benefiting from simplified customs clearance procedures through Jersey Post’s agreements with other Universal Postal Union member states. But after Brexit, says the Post, this is likely to become a congested route with risks of considerable delays due to extra border crossing controls and customs clearance.
As a result, Jersey Post has trialled a consignment bound for Holland and sent via St Malo, using Ferryspeed and Condor Ferries. There the items were stored overnight before being cleared by customs and shipping by road to Holland the next day, arriving the next morning - 48 door-to-door.
Niall McClure, Jersey Post managing drector for postal and logistics, said: "With the level of uncertainty surrounding Brexit showing no sign of slowing, we’ve been working tirelessly to provide our clients with alternative routes into Europe. Whatever the implications of Brexit, we’re confident that we will have solutions in place that will enable locally-based ecommerce businesses to trade freely with EU customers.”
“There is also the potential for Jersey Post to access certain French airports direct from Jersey, which could provide a next-day or even same-day mail service for documents and correspondence; something which could be of real interest to financial and legal operations based in Jersey.
“While these routes are being investigated and tested, Jersey Post has also engaged with key contacts at Deutsche Post, German Customs, La Poste and French Customs (France and Germany being the largest current export destination for Jersey Post). This has provided useful insight into related key topics, which will help Jersey Post to plan ahead of the final Brexit deadline further.”
In 2018, Jersey Post handled 4.7m items on behalf of Jersey- based ecommerce clients, of which 4.2m (90%) were destined for dispatch within Europe.