Foreword

Hello and welcome to our new Brexit blog!

I will be providing regular updates on the blog and would like to start by introducing myself. My name is Justin Clark and I work for Hellmann Worldwide Logistics in the UK. I am an experienced Supply Chain Manager who has worked in the logistics industry for over 20 years. Although my background is primarily in Contract Logistics, I work across all sectors where Hellmann Worldwide Logistics UK have a presence and support the operation with delivering projects and improving their operations. The responsibility for Brexit within our organisation falls under my remit and I anticipate that this could keep me in a job for quite some time.

The position thus far
Much like you I am fed up with Brexit. I hear about it at breakfast on the telly, it continues in the car on the way to work. I hear about it from our customers and suppliers when I’m at work. It continues on the radio on my commute home from work and when I get home I hear about it on the late evening news before I fall asleep. The worst thing is that they all appear to say the same thing and it is pretty much the same thing they said yesterday, the day before, last week, last month and last year. Unfortunately I can’t just switch it off! I am responsible for keeping everyone informed in my organisation; for working out what is happening, what it means for Hellmann Worldwide Logistics UK and what we will do to prepare for it and tackle it once it finally occurs. In order to do that effectively, we believe we need to liaise with as many of our customers, partners, suppliers, and colleagues as we can. As part of our Brexit strategy we have opened this forum so that we can post our latest views and opinions along articles and statements related to the subject of Brexit, that is where you come in! I will be giving my opinion based on the best information I have. This means that the more questions, discussions and articles etc. that I see, read and consider the better informed that opinion is likely to be – so please feel free to contact me with any information you feel adds to the discussion and debate.

My eager enthusiasm for the new ‘Brexit’ project has admittedly started to wane a little but gradually the issue has taken on a much broader interest, I believe it is no longer just about UK departure but rather it appears to have focused a movement that represents a challenge to the integrity, stability and survival of what we have known as ‘Western democracy’ in Europe over the past 75 years – a much more interesting and expansive subject.

The UK political parties are fragmented and disjointed with the population generally demonstrating similar traits. We have seen the rise of nationalism across many European states including; The Netherlands, France and Italy whilst at the same time separatist movements have become prominent in Scotland, Catalan and between North and South Italy. Many long standing areas of contention that were predominantly silenced through the unification of the EU have seen flair ups such as the Irish border, and the UK sovereignty of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Gibraltar. Add to this questions surrounding potential Russian influence in ‘Western’ elections, the shift to the political right in many European countries, increase in isolationism through the escalations in trade laws between the US and China, the de-stabling effect of large scale refugees and immigration into Europe predominantly from Syria and Iraq (asylum requests into the EU rising from 200K per annum in 2010 to over 1m in 2015 and 2016) , the rise in hate crime (55% increase in England and Wales since 2014/15 to the year 2017/18) and terrorist activities as well as the unpredictability of the most powerful man in the world and the picture can very quickly start to look unstable.

The point is clear however, it is important to understand that the political environment is at present unstable and to assume the future is mapped out and obvious is naïve. We need to accept that certainly for the imminent future, we will need to get used to working in an environment without absolutes and which is incredibly fluid. Secondly, it is important to understand that Brexit is not an isolated incident specific to the UK; rather it is part of a much larger global movement influencing the status quo.

To most individuals, Brexit is an annoyance that they wish would just go away. However, for businesses (and the people who work for them), Brexit is likely to demonstrate a massive change in the working world we know today. Let’s be clear though, like everything Brexit related nothing is quite certain. Everything you read, see, hear, or espouse is supposition and conjecture, if you want facts you are thinking about the wrong subject. I am not a Donald Rumsfeld fan, but I would like to draw your attention to his famous quotes;
“There are things we know” – we will leave the EU on 29th March 2019 or that the Irish border is difficult to find an answer for or that 27 independent states need to agree on any deal.

“There are things we don’t know we know” – we probably know a lot of what the picture will look like after Brexit, after all the government has produced 106 documents telling us what will happen in a ‘No Deal’ scenario, which of these will happen in a Deal scenario is obviously still unknown.

“There are things we know we don’t know” – We don’t know exactly what customs requirements will be required at the border or whether the EU will accept certain UK documents.

“There are things we don’t know we don’t know” – The unknown certainly looms heavily over our heads with all to do with Brexit.

So the dilemma facing pretty much every European business Manager is that they know something is coming but they don’t know what, when or how? I would like to say you could take an educated guess, but the intricacies, complexities and range of possibilities surrounding the subject make an informed, objective and educated consideration virtually impossible. Add to this the machinations of the political class of 27 different nations, the decisions of a federally focused bureaucratic elite in Brussels and the rise of ‘fake news’ and you have a cocktail of different outcomes that makes Fermat’s last Theorem (which took 358 years to solve) simplistic.

It would be easy given this situation to give up now and just accept the inevitability of a catastrophe steaming down the rail tracks towards us, however, this doesn’t help us or the customers we serve. We at Hellmann Worldwide Logistics UK therefore have refused to capitulate to apathy and have instead looked to see what we can do. I am glad to say that there are things we have identified that, despite all the uncertainty, we can act upon. The 106 papers produced by government on Brexit can be considered as the basis of the ‘No Deal’ scenario but also logically the starting point of a ‘Deal’ scenario. We can also assume that some sort of change will occur and for the logistics world that would suggest that there will be an increase in customs clearance requirements. Assuming we accept this as the likely result, then we can subsequently assume that we will need more staff to deal with this rapid potentially exponential increase in activity and we can inform our customers that this will impact on the cost of their shipments.

We can’t say exactly what will happen on 30th March 2019, but we can put contingencies in place for the potential scenarios. This blog is a starting point for information, but we will also be producing more detailed and specific documents and papers that we will be happy to keep you in the loop with if you sign up to our mailing list.

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