Business at cross-channel and European freight forwarder France Line International Transport remains buoyant, despite the frustrating, ongoing uncertainty over Brexit – an uncertainty that is unquestionably now harming UK competitiveness, says managing director Marie Boyer. Healthy trading figures along with ongoing development and growth of new services contributed to France Line being voted Best European Road Freight Specialist 2019 and Recognised Leaders in Specialist Cross-Channel Freight Services 2019 at the SME News 2019 Transport Awards. A recognition of France Line’s diligence and hard work. We spoke with Marie to find out how the growing Trafford Park based business was weathering the uncertainty of Brexit.
The Brexit effect
“The industry enjoyed a good first quarter of 2019 and a particularly buoyant March, driven in part by companies building stocks in the UK ahead of a potential March 29 no-deal Brexit. That stockpiling was, however, balanced by the reduction of stock levels for non-perishable goods in April. On top of this reduction in activity, several UK-based car manufacturers introduced a shutdown in April in anticipation of potential Brexit disruption, which limited their delivery requirements.
“This situation was also compounded by the impact of striking French customs officers, leading to considerable queues of trailers in Calais, and to long delays of around 10 hours or more at the port. It’s interesting to contrast the Brexit rhetoric with the on-the-ground reality. Some of our hauliers decided to temporarily stop coming to the UK or to increase their prices on the (understandable) belief that being stuck in queues would reduce the number of trips they could make and damage their profitability. As we see a number of UK-based businesses moving to the continent to avoid the effects of Brexit (or the paralysis and confusion caused by its implementation), it’s hard to reach any conclusion other than that the country is engaged in an ongoing act of self-harm.”
“We can take an awful lot of pride in the fact that, in such volatile times, our enquiries (and conversions of those enquiries) are increasing – of which more in a moment. But it would be foolish of us to think that we are immune from the issues affecting our competitors. We know traffic is being lost in the industry in general as shippers review their operations and make the decision to relocate and start servicing their European customers from mainland Europe.
“The Netherlands is just one EU country benefitting greatly from these relocations, due to their quality logistics infrastructure, good connections with neighbouring countries, flexible workforce regulations, English-speaking manpower and VAT deferment scheme. The UK’s global competitiveness is deteriorating. That isn’t solely down to Brexit and the uncertainty surrounding it – we can also point the finger at a lack of investment in the nation’s transport and logistics infrastructure over the past few years – but Brexit is a, if not the, primary contributing factor at present.”
“Despite the challenging conditions, France Line has won numerous new accounts for all our different services. These include our French services as well as our services to and from other major western and eastern countries, but chiefly the latest additions have been for our newly established cross trade services between France and Germany, and France and Poland. We are always looking for new opportunities and it is heartening to see that a good and trusted reputation can still be a crucial factor in choosing freight services, irrespective of the B word.”
Preparing for (eventual) Brexit…
“France Line has been acting with caution over the outcome of the UK’s decision to leave the UK. Having identified planning, training and customs as the key areas for our focus, we engaged a Brexit advisor from the Institute of Exports & International Trade to train all our staff on customs declarations. We also arranged training from the Manchester Chamber of Commerce of which we are an active member. We distributed to our customers a Brexit guide, including key points such as:
- How to apply for the EORI number that enables export to or import from the EU
- How importers should register now for TSP – Transitional Simplified Procedure
- Export procedures in a post-Brexit world
“We spent a lot of time reassuring our clients that, come what may, France Line would be able to support them. Our customers were happy with and grateful for the information we gave them but, like much of the country, many were not ready for a no deal. That’s why I welcomed the EU granting the UK a ‘flextension’ of Article 50 to the 31 October 2019. At the time of writing (just prior to the EU elections) we are still no closer to finding out if, when or how the UK will leave the EU. My experience over recent months has only reinforced the view that the current deal is the best possible
deal and that the UK should remain in the EU.”
To find out more about France Line visit www.francelinetransport.co.uk
Contact Marie Boyer on 0161 746 8339 or email firstname.lastname@example.org