Ferries, trains and ports could grind to a halt if no Brexit deal is reached with the European Union, fear logistics company bosses.
Time is running out for the government as Brexit is only a year away – and so far, logistics bosses say all they have seen is a talking shop and no hard plans for how Britain’s borders will work when March 31, 2019 arrives.
The border crossing between Northern Ireland and Eire remains a sticking point with no agreement.
The EU argues Northern Ireland must obey the bloc’s regulations if a ‘soft border’ is to remain, but the British government and Northern Ireland politicians will have none of this.
Paranoia over leaking Brexit plans
Now, bosses of logistics firms across the UK have revealed the government has carried on secret talks with them to look at how new border controls will work without jamming ports and airports.
But the firms claim the government has forced them to sign non-disclosure agreements to make sure details about plans for the borders do not get back to EU negotiators.
Peter MacSwiney, a key member of a different industry collaboration body, the joint customs consultative committee, told Sky News: “I don’t understand what the secrecy is, I don’t know what is causing this paranoia, they are petrified that someone is going to release something that will reveal to the EU what we are trying to achieve, but that is straightforward – frictionless borders.
“I don’t think we’re anywhere, there are no practical measures on the table that I can see, endless discussions about theoretical concepts, but not about what we are actually going to do on day one.”
Apparently, the talks are about data on cargo passing through Britain’s border.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling has pledged that no checks will be carried at Channel ports even though a report from MPs argues the technology to support a virtual border at the ports or between Northern Ireland and Ireland is not available.
The government has little information about what trains, lorries and aircraft are carrying between the UK and Europe as the loads are rarely checked entering or leaving the country.
The data is helping the government build a picture of what the border is likely to look like post-Brexit – and the logistics firms that have been approached claim a few options are under consideration, including a hard Brexit.