In the port of Dover: Because of the Brexit, problems in delivery traffic between the EU and Great Britain are expected. (Aaron Chown / PA / dpa)
Three more days of transition – then a farewell is complete. Great Britain is also leaving the internal market and the customs union at the end of the year and will become a third country for the EU. Shortly before, the trade agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union received two green lights: the ambassadors of the 27 member states of the EU tentatively approved the agreement, although the ratification of the agreement by the European Parliament is still pending. The Federal Cabinet, headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), also rated the agreement positively: Germany can agree to it and will do so in the European Council.
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On the British side, Parliament is due to vote in favor of the trade pact on December 30th. The contract is intended to avoid a severe economic break. The negotiators on both sides had agreed on the 1250-page paper on Christmas Eve. The most important point is to ensure unlimited trade in goods without customs duties. Nevertheless, economic relations will be far less close in the future than before. For example, goods controls are necessary at the borders, among other things because evidence of compliance with EU food safety rules and compliance with product standards has to be provided.
The customs formalities entail new work. Experts therefore expect delays in the beginning. Robert Völkl, Managing Director of the Bremer Spediteure Association, shares the prognosis: “I suspect that there will be a lot of problems, especially in the initial phase.” However, there is still one unknown in the bill: Whether the customs in Great Britain are ready accordingly?
Markus Fellmann, who is responsible for Great Britain at Hellmann’s logistics company, points out the joint efforts. “All parties such as customs authorities, police, port operators, ferry companies, the Eurotunnel and of course the freight forwarders are doing their best to meet the new requirements,” says Fellmann. The customs formalities meant a considerable amount of additional work for the freight forwarding industry. At the beginning there will certainly be delays because processes have not yet been established: “The big question is how long it will take for the new processes to function smoothly and routinely.”
The main customs office in Bremen is prepared for the day after the exit. Admittedly, they do not take on any new tasks, because the clearance of cross-border goods traffic is one of the core tasks of customs. However, with the Brexit, the scope will increase here and lead to “selective increased handling and control costs”. Especially at the international seaports and airports, the customs have adjusted to an intensification of work. “Of course, that also applies to Bremen and Bremerhaven.” How much is the increase in traffic? From the customs point of view, this is currently not foreseeable because Brexit will lead to adjustments in logistics and transport routes. In order to be able to react well, the main customs offices work together nationwide in regions and can support each other via the electronic clearance procedure.
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If export customs declarations are now necessary, according to Völkl, this is “not dramatic” for all companies that are already engaged in foreign trade. But who has been active in the EU alone so far? “This is new for them,” says Völkl. In addition, it can be assumed that the import customs declarations for goods from Great Britain will in future often be the responsibility of the freight forwarders because many companies have no experience with this.
In the opinion of the managing director of the Bremer Spediteure Association, the changes are less important for the Bremerhaven location, because traffic to Great Britain does not play a major role here: “Bremerhaven mainly serves overseas traffic.” The Bremen company BLG expects the terminals in Bremerhaven and Cuxhaven hardly any impact on business. There is little or no volume for Great Britain there. “We do not currently expect any operational effects in the Neustädter Hafen in Bremen,” says spokeswoman Vivien Kretschmann. However, one cannot foresee what specific consequences the set of rules will have on the “complex and closely timed logistics processes in general”.
Relief over agreement
“Cuxhaven is ready for Brexit,” was the motto of Peter Zint before the agreement on the trade pact. The chairman of the Hafenwirtschaftsgemeinschaft Cuxhaven and managing director of Cuxport promised: “We offer traffic-free customs clearance from the first minute of a Brexit – also because the trailers are shipped driverless with us.” Import shipments with incorrect or missing customs documents could be in one area separated and did not hinder anyone. For trucks with the right customs papers, they guarantee “delay-free clearance and punctual departure of the ship”. The port industry, customs and shipping companies have been preparing for Brexit for more than two years. After all, most of the handling here is due to traffic with Great Britain.
In general, the agreement makes things easier – for example at the IHK Nord. “Great Britain is one of the most important international trading partners of the North German economy”, commented Managing Director Alexander Anders. From the point of view of business, the bureaucratic regulations should be “kept as low as possible in order to avoid additional damage”.
By contrast, there is dissatisfaction among British fishermen. “Boris Johnson promised us the rights to all the fish swimming in our exclusive economic zone, but we only received a fraction of them,” said the head of the national association of fisheries organizations. British fishermen would now have to fight hard to keep their livelihoods.
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