Over the last two years we have been attending and offering input at various meetings held by the Trade Facilitation Expert Panel, where OATA has been represented by CEO Dominic Whitmee and board member Kevin Barton of ALF Ltd.
The Panel is made up of senior representatives from the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Department of Exiting the EU, HMRC, Border Control, Trading Standards, Health & Safety Executive, Law Society, ASA, Forwarders Association, various other trade associations and representatives from significant PLCs.
During the meetings OATA has raised areas of concern highlighting issues that go beyond livestock, such as:
- There are various regulations that UK businesses are legally obliged to conform to (with the associated costs) which non-UK based operators do not because they are considered to be outside the legal jurisdiction of UK enforcers.
- Products banned by relevant UK authorities are still being imported directly by consumers. And potentially unsafe products (which do not meet UK legislation) are also being imported by consumers and fulfilment houses but, because the supply company are based outside the UK, product recalls cannot be enforced.
- The huge growth of unregulated cross border trading where a large imbalance exists against the interests of both UK businesses and the UK Government which results in the export of trade and UK VAT by consumers.
- The severe difficulty of brand owners trying to avoid brand destruction due to the illegality of any pricing controls and the failure of authorities to recognise potential unfair trading practices as per current rulings.
- The significant issue of importations by consumers under the ‘de-minimus’ ruling (set currently at €1000) which means a high volume of trade bypasses all legislation, including both safety and taxation.
- Current and future Border controls and how these will affect our members whatever deal is finally agreed on.
- Discussing the potential outcome for recognition and enforcement of standards, post Brexit, through much tighter control at UK borders to gain better product alignment to UK legislation.
The Government departments we have been working closely with have had their staff greatly expanded along with their budget which we think shows that these discussions and resulting actions are a very important area of consideration for the future trading of the UK, whatever the outcome of current Brexit negotiations.
The latest Government position paper shows that the UK is positioning itself to ensure that many of these problems can eventually be overcome through tighter border controls. Even though the proposals are new and embryonic, and will no doubt continue to develop, they are revolutionary and will create a way forward for a gold standard for other countries to follow.
Both Dominic and Kevin have been able to arrange one-to-one meetings with senior Government personnel and are recognised at ‘punching above their weight’. As a result, we have been invited to future meetings where our input can be included.