Brexit row erupts over claim ‘UK going to hell’ on January 1 amid border chaos fears

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A haulage expert has been accused of being “part of the brigade which believes that the UK is going to hell in a handcart” post-Brexit. Steve Bartlett, the Chairman of Association of Freight Software Suppliers (AFSS), spoke to the Future Relationship with the European Union Committee about the challenges facing the British haulage industry. Bosses in the sector called for an “urgent” meeting with Michael Gove in September, warning that gaps in Brexit preparations risked causing severe disruption to the supply lines at the UK’s borders when the transition period ended.

Labour MP Barry Sheerman said: “Steven, it did seem you were part of the brigade which believes that we’re all going to hell in a handcart on January 1.

“Are you being a little unfair to the Secretary of State?

“After all, he’s a man doing his best in difficult circumstances.

“He must know, because he’s been in so many different senior roles in Government, that technology systems tend to run into really big problems in the early days of implementation. Are you being fair to him?”

Mr Bartlett shot back: “I’m trying to explain the position as we see it. So I’m very praiseworthy of HMRC in their efforts to have consultations with us.

“We certainly cannot complain about the level of consultation and the level of involvement that we’ve seen from HMRC.

“I know that they are working extremely hard to develop and get the technology ready in time.

“For example, I do sit on a number of programme boards for the assistance for EU transition. So I do get to have a voice at higher levels.”

He added: “In my observations, I’m trying to say the situation as I feel it is, and that’s what I was doing in regards to Mr Gove.

“Our common enemy here is just time – we do not have the time available to us to do what we need to do. There are changes to other systems we currently share with the EU that we have to consider.

“There are still quite a few outstanding questions on processes we don’t have answers to from Mr Gove and others because the negotiations are still ongoing.”

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Brexit talks have resumed in London this week as the UK and EU seek to “redouble efforts” to secure a deal.

Negotiators on both sides agreed that there are three areas to resolve: fishing, competition and governance.

This comes after Boris Johnson warned British businesses to prepare for a no deal outcome.

Eight organisations, including the Road Haulage Association and Logistics UK, said the supply chain will be seriously impacted if concerns such as a lack of funds to train customs officials aren’t addressed before December 31.

The Government assured that it had plans to ensure the country is ready for the changes.

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