Video report by ITV News Correspondent Daniel Hewitt
Boris Johnson has claimed the UK will "prosper mightily" regardless of what Brexit trade deal it achieves, despite haulage bosses expressing "strong" concerns about "significant gaps" in preparations.
Eight logistics organisations, including the Road Haulage Association (RHA), have written to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove to highlight fears the UK-EU supply chain “will be severely disrupted” next year if issues are not resolved before Brexit.
Haulage bosses have called for an “urgent” meeting with Cabinet ministers to discuss the issues, but the prime minister sought to reassure them by insisting the UK is "ready for any eventuality".
Mr Johnson said if the UK is given an "Australia-style deal" - another way to say no deal - "then that is what we will achieve and we will prosper mightily one way or the other".
He added: "[The EU] could be sensible and give us a Canada-style solution, which after all they've given Canada, and I very much hope they will, but we're ready for either eventuality."
The letter states: “As key participants in the supply chain who will be required to deliver a functional operating border for GB and EU traders next year, we have visibility of the current state of preparedness which as it stands has significant gaps.
“If these issues are not addressed disruption to UK business and the supply chain that we all rely so heavily on will be severely disrupted.”
It adds: “The Covid pandemic has demonstrated to both Government and the general public the importance of a free-flowing supply chain, and with transition occurring at the same time as a potential second Covid spike it is critical we ensure the supply chain is protected.
“We are asking you to take seriously our concerns and listen to the detail during this roundtable so that we can collectively help Government manage through this enormous challenge with as little disruption as possible.
“Our aim, like yours, is to have a functional and effective border that allows goods to flow from January 1 2021.”
Signatories to the letter also include Logistics UK, UK Warehousing Association, the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, Cold Chain Federation, British Association of Removers, British International Freight Association and British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA).
RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “There are a range of critical issues the Chancellor, Michael Gove and the Transport Secretary need to address ranging from the SmartFreight app and other untried and untested IT systems, to the lack of customs agents and clear processes for tackling the mountain of red tape traders will face.
“The Government’s pace is simply too slow on this, and that’s why we – the people who run the UK’s supply chain – need an urgent meeting with those at the top of Government dealing with Brexit preparations.”
Mr Shapps said he would meet haulage bosses.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday that he has “very, very regular contact” with “people like the Road Haulage Association”.
A Government spokesperson said: “The border operating model sets out in significant detail the approach to UK border controls after the transition period.
“We worked closely with industry in its development and will continue to do so as we move towards the end of the transition period.”
The spokesperson said the Government was investing £705 million in “jobs, infrastructure and technology at the border” and had announced a new £50 million support package “to boost the capacity of the customs intermediary sector, ensuring we are ready for the changes and opportunities ahead”.