Is the lack of HGV parking facilities in Kent having a detrimental effect on HGV drivers?

This week Logistics UK has voiced concern over new rules on lorry drivers parking in Kent laybys and the adverse affect this is having on driver welfare. Mike Parr, Director at Perishable Movements Limited issued this statement earlier today

This week Logistics UK has voiced concern over new rules on lorry drivers parking in Kent laybys and the adverse affect this is having on driver welfare.

Mike Parr, Director at Perishable Movements Limited issued this statement earlier today:

“PML whole-heartedly supports the over-arching concerns of Logistics UK, regarding the banning of lorry parking for more than 45 minutes at a time in laybys across several areas of Kent, which effectively reduces the opportunity for drivers to take the legally required rest period.

No driver would opt for a layby as their first choice for a rest break, we’d always recommend drivers park up in a location which represents a safe and secure stopping point, preferably with easy access to suitable toilet and wash facilities and of course, a good meal. With such a significant shortage of HGV parking facilities in Kent, these drivers have limited options at the moment and while we appreciate Kent County Council don’t want to have lorries blocking laybys, surely more needs to be done to provide these drivers – who are the lifeline to maintaining essential food & drink as well as medical supplies to the UK – with a more fit for purpose parking solution?

As a leading player in the efficient transfer of perishable cargo we believe this is an important industry issue that needs addressing as a matter of urgency.

PML is currently working on a plan to resolve the problems in Kent.

Watch this space ….”

Read the Fresh Produce Journal article in full here: Kent parking row deepens haulage gloom

Fresh food rotting in cold stores due to a Brexit HGV driver shortage

This week, a major British fresh food distributor warned that fruit and vegetables are rotting in cold stores because of a major shortage of HGV drivers.


At Perishable Movements Limited, we’ve been following the story closely and are aware of concerns within the industry.


If your business is facing supply issues as a result of the shortage of HGV drivers then get in touch with our road transport team. We can talk through the problems that you’re facing and offer advice and solutions.

Call us on: 020 8893 2666

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Here’s the story in full from MSN:

Tim O’Malley, managing director of Nationwide Produce PLC is one of the biggest companies supplying fruit and vegetables to supermarkets and restaurants across Britain. 

He has warned that perfectly good food is being left to rot as there are not enough truck drivers to transport produce across the country. 

The firm, which had a turnover of £144 million in 2018/19, imported 61 per cent of its products from outside the UK. 

In an article in the Fresh Produce Journal, Mr O’Malley has warned that his industry has been hit by Brexit, Covid-19 and changes to the tax system of HGV agency drivers.  

Mr O’Malley wrote: ‘The acute shortage of HGV drivers is now the direct cause of perfectly good, graded and packed fresh produce being dumped or left rotting in cold stores, waiting for wheels to go under it. Supermarket shelves and restaurant plates are going empty, and this is now a crisis of national importance.’

He said hauliers have been forced to call their customers to warn them that due to a shortage of drivers they are unable to deliver their produce, leaving them with little notice. 

He said one major supermarket could not get 22 full loads of produce delivered over last weekend. 

Mr O’Malley said he has had an excellent relationship with his main haulier for many years and said the industry has been warning about the impending shortages for many years.    

He said Britain has been reliant on large numbers of EU drivers who have returned to their home countries instead of remaining in the UK. 

Worse still for the industry, truck drivers are not included on the Government’s list of skilled labour so new arrivals will need immigration paperwork which makes the UK less attractive. 

Also, Covid-19 has seen no new British truck drivers trained within the past 12 months.  

He also said changes in the rules of self employment have seen a 25 increase in agency driver charges, which has a further impact on the cost of a delivery. 

Mr O’Malley said British truck drivers are getting older on average, with 13 per cent over 60 compared with one per cent under 25.  

He said the government has to change the tax rules and add foreign drivers to the skilled migrant list to help avert a crisis. 

He added: ‘If not that, perhaps a spike in fresh produce prices as the industry is forced to pass on the huge increase in all labour costs to the consumer.’ 

Mr O’Malley warned the entire industry was facing crisis and the government needed to take immediate action to avoid having empty supermarket shelves.  

The shortfall of 70,000 HGV drivers in the UK has already seen wages shoot up by 20 per cent and consumers are now being warned that grocery prices could rocket to pay for the drivers’ increased pay.

The shortage of lorry drivers has been fuelled by EU workers going back to the continent during the pandemic.

The introduction of the IR35 rules in April, which ensures agency drivers pay broadly the same Income Tax and National Insurance contributions as individuals who are directly employed, has also pushed wages up by £2 an hour per driver. 

Asset Alliance Group CEO Willie Paterson said he is growing increasingly concerned by the shortage of HGV drivers in the UK. 

He said: ‘Truck drivers were rightly hailed as national heroes for helping to keep the UK moving throughout this Covid-19 pandemic – and yet the industry’s pleas for help in addressing the growing driver shortage continue to go ignored. 

#The lack of skilled HGV drivers – estimated to be about 76,000 – isn’t just a problem for the sector, but the wider economy too, with potential to cause huge disruption to supply chains and the country’s coronavirus recovery.

‘Whilst the recent increase in the funding limit for Large Goods Vehicle apprenticeships is welcome, it just doesn’t go far enough. 

‘The government needs to take this issue seriously, and work hand-in-hand with the industry to make it easier – and more attractive – for new recruits to enter the profession, including resolving the driver test backlog, improving facilities and removing financial barriers such as high insurance and training costs.’

Trusted Bytes project aims to boost supply chain productivity within UK food economy

A boosted supply chain productivity and streamlined regulatory compliance could become established within a new project named the Trusted Bytes Project for an industry wide data exchange system, which will cost £2.8 million and will be funded by Innovate UK. 

The project will connect the fresh produce supply chain with central government and other major partners and will help facilitate the flow of fruit and vegetables across Post Brexit borders and will drive productivity forward within the UK.

Professor Simon Pearson, director of the Lincoln Institute for Agri-food Technology at the University of Lincoln, who is involved in the project, said: “Given the changes to UK terms of trade post Brexit, this project is extremely timely. We hope to provide technology to help the flow of the fresh produce trade but also lead innovation to establish the trusted sharing of data in complex supply chains.”

The technology will digitise border transfer processes and provide proof of food provenance, and will allow data exchange and sharing across the food supply chain creating a “trust framework”. Contained Technologies’ BlueRing software is at the centre of the project, and is designed to integrate external systems, such as HMRC, quickly and easily, while Novel telecoms will provide real-time digital connectivity for supply chain operators. A new BSI standard will be developed to enable businesses to automate the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) certification process. 

The project will deliver a full service that can integrate across multiple ERP systems, from order to compliance and submission. Information will be accessible to all on a data sharing platform that tracks conditions and locations of produce, as well as enabling this data to be easily integrated and shared in companies’ own forms and templates, within their current systems. 

The consortium, led by Produce Logistics, includes leading fresh produce supply chain operators Fesa UK, Worldwide Fruit, Davis Worldwide, Hain Daniels, FreshLinc, and ukFPN Lincolnshire. Angie Stuart of ukFPN Lincolnshire said: “This is a major achievement and another great example of the level of innovation found within the fresh produce industry in South Lincolnshire. We’re super excited to be working on this project with our members and partners.”

It is supported and welcomed by tech companies Contained Technologies UK, British Standards Institution (BSI), and Excelerate Technology. The University of Lincoln, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult’s Manufacturing Technology Centre, and the Satellite Applications Catapult have also extended their support. 

The Cost of Brexit on Fine Wine shipping

Despite the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the transportation of wine to and from mainland Europe and the UK was pretty much a straightforward process in 2020. It required a minimum level of regulatory checks and procedures; haulage firms benefited from the EMCS system, an EU customs database that simplified the shipping process for them.

However, come 1st January 2021 and the changes to the UK/EU trade regulations, this straightforward process has been turned on its head. Philip Cox, owner of Romanian winery Cramele Recas, describes the new regulations as “nightmarish” and “potentially unworkable” for small wineries and UK businesses.

“It is fair to say that the new logistics framework has been a challenge for the industry. Even before Brexit, transporting wine was admin heavy. We required roughly 200 pages of documents to move an average shipment between the UK and EU,” explains Ashley Hopkins, Liv-ex director of operations. Adding “Since 1st January 2021 that admin has multiplied. The original 200 pages are still required, but now a similar sized export will require additional documents such as import declarations etc, resulting in around 800 pages.” 

“It’s not just the paperwork that’s the problem. In order to produce these documents you need certain wine expertise, and you also need to include additional parties such as freight forwarders, all of which adds time and costs to the supply chain.” adds Hopkins.

European wine producers, importers and exporters and major transport firms are all attempting to get their head around this new process. The transportation of goods to and from the UK has become much more time consuming, expensive and difficult. A good example of this is from 1st  January 2021, producers have been forced to ship goods in fumigated and treated stamped wooden pallets, which before 1st January 2021 wasn’t a legal requirement. 

In addition, logistics firms must now use ‘Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) Numbers’. EORI numbers are issued by customs to identify traders throughout the EU and are now an essential legal requirement for UK import and exports. Also, under new VAT rules, the tax is now paid in full at the port of entry to the UK before the goods are released. This is a potential issue for smaller businesses.

“The new post-Brexit trading framework has impacted iDealwine in areas that they didn’t see coming. The additional paperwork was expected, but negotiating new rates and new shipping partners were not,” says Alix Rodarie, head of international development at iDealwine.

“New laws and even seeking advice from legal experts was expected, but legal experts unable to clarify or interpret a number of issues relating to importing wine to the UK was not. Customs declarations and duties payable were expected, but the complexity and number of charges for delivering were not.” Rodarie explains that the firm has been forced to build new logistical and legal relationships again from scratch, and then communicate these changes to their existing clients.

“As I’ve said before, it is now easier for me to sell to Japan than the UK,” adds Philip Cox. “Apart from the expense and time wasting inherent to carrying out a full customs declaration, I now have to include an importer’s label on every bottle, detailing their address, etc. I exported 4 million bottles to the UK in 2019 across 12 different brands. So I would have to produce 12 different versions of the label for each wine. Unfortunately, I’ve ceased exporting to my smaller customers. The new administration costs mean that shipping small volumes is not worth my while. The real victim has been the British consumer.”

With supply chain overheads increasing, producers and importers alike must now weigh up how much of this strain can be willingly shared between the key parties, or if UK consumers should be forced to shoulder the burden of the rising prices.

Some experts are optimistic that the end consumer will not suffer unduly. But equally, there is an opinion across the board that smaller brands may now find exporting prohibitively expensive, leading to fewer niche labels on our shelves.

“Our shipping charges have been altered. We used to be charged per case, which meant that we could ship tiny parcels from some growers. We are now charged per pallet and have a sliding economy of scale – this puts our smallest suppliers at a real disadvantage,” says Siobhán Astbury, buying director at Haynes Hanson & Clark.

“There are certainly some wines that have had to go up by a few pounds per case, but for the moment nothing extreme. We’re getting a slightly better exchange rate now than we were at the end of last year, which also helps cancel things out. But it’s still very early days.”

As with Covid-19, uncertainty surrounds the transition into new trading relationships. At the moment, UK customs are overlooking certain checks on goods to ease companies through the transition period. However, when this gentle approach finishes, its forecast that companies should expect long and costly delays at UK customs and excise. 

Both European and UK businesses are also arguing against the introduction of wine import certificates. This new piece of legislation was written into the Brexit deal to replace the VI-1 forms, which the EU currently use to regulate the import of non-European wines.

“As an industry we are used to VI-1 forms for wines originating outside of Europe and this will remain business as usual (albeit a UK version). One of the sections on the new import certificate form requires a customs stamp, which is likely to add an additional 200 pages and 200 stamps – it’s all getting a bit daft,” says Ashley Hopkins, Liv-ex director of operations. In late March, the government delayed the introduction of the wine import certificates until 1st January 2022. Nevertheless, WSTA chief executive Miles Beale, who has been heavily involved in lobbying the government to remove the regulation from UK law has stated that the threat of an eventual implementation of the forms is still “very real.” It remains to be seen whether they will listen to the argument against this extra step or not.

European ports preparing for the after effects of Suez crisis

In the weeks to come supply chains are preparing for the knock on effects of the Suez Canal blockage with expectations of congestion, delays and increased costs. 

The Institute of Export and International Trade has raised concerns over import surges that are expected to hit European ports following the removal of the Ever Given ship that has been blocking the Suez Canal.

The wedged ship Ever Given was finally freed on 29th March, leaving a trail of around 100 container ships waiting to enter the canal. Although some of those cargo ships would have been empty or headed to other destinations, roughly 52% of the canal capacity each week heads to Europe according to the Institute of Export and International Trade. 

Eleanor Hadland, senior ports analyst at maritime research consultancy Drewry has stated “From our perspective, it is going to be more chaos and more congestion.” The situation is badly affecting the US west coast where a lack of capacity means ships have to anchor for up to two weeks before unloading and In Europe, carriers are being given the option of diverting course to smaller, less busy terminals, Hadland said. 

The International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations have said that the disruption of the supply chain was expected to “worsen dramatically” over the next coming weeks. They have also stated that this would create “high delays in shipments, increased costs and product shortages.”

Freight and logistics publication Loadstar has reported that currently air freight is currently operating at full capacity, predicting that it will take approximately two weeks for the impact of the crisis to begin to “unravel”. 

“Capacity is already an issue with greater use of air for test kits and vaccines”, said Ekaterina Andreeva, commercial director for Russian air cargo carrier Volga-Dnepr. “We can predict a busy market for a couple of months, but maybe it will lessen over the summer. Rates though could be elevated until the end of the year,” she said.

As the world looks to the cost of the Ever Given blockage, John Neal the CEO of Lloyd’s of London told the Evening Standard that potential losses to the market from the blockage of the Suez Canal would be in the “hundreds of millions” but said that the claims were easier to deal with than they are having to with Covid, which up to this point has cost Lloyd’s £6.2 billion in payouts. 

“It is the very type of loss we are used to,” John Neal said. “It will be quite a big marine claim, but not particularly out of the ordinary.” 

EU Goods Sub Committee report reveals ‘substantial barriers’ since Brexit for UK trade with Europe

A report by the House of Lords’ EU Goods Sub-Committee has warned small firms are “feeling the squeeze” since the Brexit deal with Brussels came into force in January and there remains “substantial barriers” for UK trade with Europe and small businesses bearing the brunt post Brexit.

The committee is calling on ministers to establish a trusted trader scheme to tackle the amount of paperwork that businesses have to complete, whilst also helping with the increased cost of transporting goods and giving firms time to understand the VAT changes when exporting to the EU.

In the Beyond Brexit: Trade in Goods report, it said there “remains substantial barriers to trade with the EU” following the implementation of the fresh trading terms.

It also warned that, without appropriate action, the physical checks currently in situ on plant and animal produce could become a “permanent barrier to trade”, with meat and live shellfish produce worst hit by the new inspection regime.

The committee’s chairwoman Baroness Verma, said:

“The Brexit trade deal struck with the EU may have prevented the nightmare of a ‘no deal’ exit for the UK, but a lot of unfinished business remains between the two sides. Businesses, particularly SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), are feeling the squeeze of the non-tariff barriers resulting from the end of the transition period.

The government must take an ambitious approach to trade ties with the EU. Swift action and further funding is needed to minimise future disruption.

Ongoing dialogue will be crucial to achieving smoother trade. The TCA (Trade and Cooperation Agreement) should be treated as the start, not the end of the UK’s new relationship with the EU.”

The report stated a series of recommendations for clarifying the requirements on exporters.

It stated that “On customs, we recommend a trusted trader scheme to enable more businesses – especially smaller businesses – to benefit from simplified customs procedures,”

The “complicated and varied VAT rules in different EU jurisdictions” were described as “among the most problematic non-tariff barriers to trade”, with the committee asking for “advice and support to increase understanding among traders of new VAT implications”. This is following the government’s decision to delay the release of its own programme.

On rules of origin stipulations, the committee said: “Only goods originating – or mostly originating – in the UK or EU will qualify for zero tariffs. The requirements will hit smaller businesses hardest but clarifications and mitigations, particularly on the re-export of non-processed goods, are urgently needed for all.”

Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said:

“At a moment when small firms are up against it like never before, those that trade internationally – often our most innovative and profitable businesses – are being hit with reams and reams of new paperwork. They simply don’t have the time or money to manage it.

Unless we ease the admin burden being placed on our small importers and exporters it’s going to weigh heavy on our efforts to get the economy firing on all cylinders again.”

Brexit delays at UK border ‘getting worse’

CIPS survey finds nearly two-thirds of supply chain managers reporting delays of up to three days, longer than in January.

Delays at the UK-EU border are getting worse, new research indicates, as Brexit paperwork continues to snarl up supply chains.

A survey of 350 UK supply chain managers by the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) found over half (58 per cent) saying that delays have become longer since the beginning of January 2021, with 30 per cent reporting that delays are significantly longer than they were when the new border rules first came into effect.  

As many as 63 per cent of those surveyed have experienced delays of at least two to three days in getting goods into the UK, up from 38 per cent in a similar survey in January. The situation is only slightly better for exports, with 44 per cent experiencing delays of at least two to three days getting goods into the EU.

By far the main reason for the holdups is the time it takes for customs to work through the new paperwork, with nearly half of businesses (47 per cent) citing this as the chief cause. Other customs issues such as a lack of capacity among customs staff and drivers being turned away for having the wrong paperwork were also cited by respondents.

Only nine per cent of people said new Covid-19 protocols were causing holdups at the border.

The delays come despite the fact many new import certifications are still yet to come into force. The extra checks, which will impact a wide range of goods, are due to be phased in from April.

Dr John Glen, CIPS economist and visiting fellow at the Cranfield School of Management, said: “We are well into the second month of the new arrangements and the hope that delays at the border would reduce as freight volumes returned to normal and customs systems became used to the new processes has not come to pass.

“What is even more concerning is that the delays are continuing to get longer, putting more and more pressure on the UK’s supply chains and affecting the timely delivery of much-needed goods. 

“The paperwork required at the border is not going to change any time soon, so we should brace ourselves for these delays to continue for at least the next few months. New requirements for import certifications are also rapidly approaching and these will only add to the paperwork required, causing further delays for businesses.

“The knock-on impact of these delays will trickle far down the supply chain and ultimately result in stock shortages and inflated prices for consumers”.

Northern Ireland faces food shortages in ‘major crisis’

Northern Ireland’s hospitals and schools risk running out of food when post-Brexit Irish Sea trade arrangements are fully implemented, claims minister.

A grace period that limits the level of red tape required to move retail food products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland runs out at the end of March.

Here’s Perishable Movements Limited Sales Director Nick Finbow with some top tips for importers and exporters to Northern Ireland to ensure they are red-tape compliant once the exemption expires.

If your business needs more guidance get in touch with our team

quotations@pml-ltd.com

Once that exemption expires supermarkets will have to comply with more rigorous animal health certification processes under the terms of Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

With depleted supermarket shelves already in evidence in Northern Ireland with the lighter-touch trade controls, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots warned of a “major crisis” once the grace period ends.

“It was made very clear to us by the suppliers to both hospitals and schools that if the current arrangement for supermarkets isn’t extended in a few months’ time that they will not be able to supply our hospitals and schools with food,” he told BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show.

“That is a major crisis and I have raised this with (senior Cabinet minister) Michael Gove.

“Seriously, are we going to have a situation where our hospitals and schools are not able to feed the children at school, they’re not able to feed their patients?

“That is an outrageous situation that we in Northern Ireland have been put in as a result of the protocol negotiated between the UK Government and the European Union.”

Under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the region has remained in the single market for goods. That requires strict health checks on animal-based food products being shipped from Great Britain.

Some products are prohibited from entering Northern Ireland at all under single market rules.

Sausages and other chilled meats, which are on that banned list, have been granted a six-month grace period to enable their import from GB to continue until June using temporary Export Health Certificates.

Northern Ireland also applies EU customs rules at its ports, requiring customs declarations on goods moving from GB.

Baffling Brexit rules threaten export chaos, Gove is warned

Business groups tell ministers to sort out bureaucratic mess caused by EU trade deal.

Perishable Movements Limited senior management team remain ready and able to provide advice to government ministers as needed and to importers struggling to navigate the red tape of the post-Brexit trade deal.

Empty shelves at a Marks & Spencer’s store in Belfast. The retailer has warned that red tape will increase costs.
Empty shelves at a Marks & Spencer’s store in Belfast. The retailer has warned that red tape will increase costs.

Ministers must restart trade negotiations with Brussels immediately to sort out the “baffling” array of post-Brexit rules and regulations that now threaten much of the UK’s export trade to the EU, leading business groups have said.

Amid mounting anger among UK firms at cross-border friction they were told would not exist, British manufacturing and trade organisations met Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove in an emergency session on Thursday to discuss problems resulting from the deal struck by Boris Johnson with the EU before Christmas.

The prime minister had hailed what he claimed was a “zero-tariff” and “zero-quotas” deal that would allow free and simple access to the single market. Less than a month on, however, Britain’s EU departure appears to be anything but pain-free.Advertisement

One leading figure involved in the talks with Gove described the new rule book as a “complete shitshow”. Another said Gove seemed “very concerned” at hearing reports of problems, after a week in which Marks & Spencer was among leading companies to warn that more bureaucracy would increase costs. The source added: “He [Gove] seemed to realise the full gravity of the situation that is unfolding and about to get worse.”

Gove admitted on Friday that there would be “significant additional disruption” at UK borders as a result of Brexit customs changes in the coming weeks.

In the first week after the UK finally left both the single market and customs union, the parcels firm DPD suspended some of its services, bookseller Waterstones halted sales to customers in the EU and UK fishermen warned they would not be able to sell their fresh produce into EU markets because of delays at borders.

There were also problems with consignments between Great Britain and Northern Ireland as new border checks caught many businesses unawares. Luxury food store Fortnum & Mason also told customers on its website: “We are temporarily unable to deliver to Northern Ireland or countries in the European Union”, while Debenhams has temporarily shut its online business in Ireland.

Some of the problems are being blamed on a rushed deal, and others on the sheer complexity of arrangements including “rules of origin”, some of which have not been finally determined. Only goods made up largely of parts that originate in the UK qualify as tariff-free.

Stephen Kelly, chief executive of the Northern Ireland business organisation Manufacturing NI, said: “The reason why the UK and EU originally agreed that there would be an implementation period of 11 months was so that people could get their heads around what was needed and assure their businesses were compliant. But we didn’t have that. We had seven days before everyone had to be ready, and one of those was Christmas Day.

“There is a big problem with GB businesses being unaware of their new responsibilities. We have the triple whammy here of Covid, Christmas and new customs rules arriving all at once without any time to adjust.”

Johnson assured Northern Ireland business owners in November 2019 that they would have “unfettered access” to the rest of the UK. “There will be no forms, no checks, no barriers of any kind,” he said. If anyone told them they needed to fill in forms, “tell them to ring up the PM and I will direct them to throw that form in the bin.”

The government was also facing pressure over its Brexit deal from the SNP. Ian Blackford, the party’s leader in Westminster, called on the UK government to “pay compensation to Scotland”, claiming a “multibillion compensation package” was needed to mitigate the costs of Brexit in Scotland.

Stephen Phipson, chief executive of the manufacturers’ organisation Make UK, said much still needed to be negotiated between the UK and EU. “Industry welcomed the trade agreement that avoided the catastrophe of no-deal, as tariffs and quotas would have been a disaster for exporters. However, this is only a starting point, as there are still substantial issues that need ironing out, with many months, if not years, of tough negotiations ahead.

“There are customs experts with 30 years’ experience who are baffled by what the new regulations mean, let alone small- and medium-sized businesses who have never had to deal with the kind of paperwork that is now required. The great fear is that for many it will prove too much and they will simply choose not to export to the EU.”

He also raised fears about the UK car industry, which could be adversely affected by tariffs if EU rules relating to the origins of components used in car manufacture cannot be met. “Having built up seamless and complex supply chains over decades, the automotive sector in the UK is facing a jolt to its systems that places its very future under threat,” he added. “While there is no suggestion multinationals will close plants overnight, we have already seen decisions to build new models placed elsewhere. As those models that have been built in the UK for many years come to the end of their life, we are likely to see a slow puncture for the sector of investment drifting away.”

Dominic Goudie head of international trade at the Food and Drink Federation said talks needed to re-start between the UK Brussels.

“Where problems emerge there will need to be further conversations,” he said. “The trade deal provides the means to do that. It is a question of whether is the will to do so” (after so many months of talks.”

Sam Lowe, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, said there were problems that could grow over coming weeks and months.

“The new import/export formalities are proving problematic for many companies. The lack of obvious queues at the border disguises the fact that many trucks are stuck in depots, unable to head to the ports due to their clients failing to provide the necessary documentation and information.”

Source: The Guardian

Delays to EU vaccine deliveries as doses can’t be kept cold enough

Urgent deliveries of the Covid-19 vaccine to eight European countries have been delayed due to difficulties keeping the doses cold enough.

Perishable Movements Limited’s team of experts remain on hand to provide expert advice and guidance to any supply teams that are struggling to import or export Covid-19 vaccines within Europe or further afield.

A day after EU states received their first doses of the vaccine from manufacturer Pfizer, Spain’s health ministry said the firm had warned further deliveries to eight countries were held up due to a “problem in the loading and shipment process” at its factory in Belgium.

Salvador Illa, Spain’s health minister, said the hitch, which was now fixed and had put back deliveries by a day, was “linked to the control of the temperature” of doses.

The Pfizer vaccine, which is the first to be rolled out across the continent, must be kept at minus 70C in dry ice packed boxes while being delivered to distribution points. It can then be stored at 2-8C for five days while being sent to vaccination centres.

“Due to a minor logistical issue, we have rescheduled a limited number of our deliveries,” said Andrew Widger, a Pfizer spokesman. “The logistical matter has been resolved and those deliveries are now being dispatched. There are no manufacturing issues to report,” he added.

Asked which eight EU states were affected, Pfizer did not immediately respond.

The challenge of keeping doses cold delayed the first vaccinations in several German cities on Sunday after temperature tracking equipment indicated 1,000 doses may have risen above 8C after leaving distribution points.

The EU’s plan to acquire more than two billion vaccine doses from different firms and inoculate all adults during 2021 has boosted spirits on the continent as contagion continues to spread.

Meanwhile, Germany’s lockdown — announced a fortnight before Christmas and implemented on December 16 — could be tightened and prolonged beyond the middle of January, senior ministers have suggested, as the country recorded its 30,000th coronavirus death.

The infection rate has remained stubbornly high over the past two months, stretching hospitals to their limits in some districts and overwhelming the contact-tracing system. The Covid-19 death toll has tripled since the end of October.

Deaths and new cases eased last week, but Horst Seehofer, the federal interior minister, said it was too soon for Germany to relax. “If the lockdown works and the numbers go down, then we cannot risk everything we have achieved with swift loosening [of the rules], otherwise it will all begin anew,” he told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

“And if the lockdown hasn’t had enough of an effect, the measures must be tightened … We have to prevent a third wave at any cost.”

A leading virologist in Switzerland has meanwhile proposed an EU-wide lockdown to contain the “UK variant”, the ostensibly more contagious strain of the coronavirus thought to have emerged in southeast England.

Isabella Eckerle, one of the heads of Geneva University’s Centre for Emerging Viral Diseases, suggested “the geographic region of Europe (not only EU) should prepare for a co-ordinated full lockdown” or risk a “tragedy”.

While Italy’s overall second wave contagion rate slows, the northern region of Veneto is still gripped by the pandemic, with 90,000 currently positive cases, up from 81,000 at the start of December.

Luca Zaia, the region’s governor, said one solution was the introduction of Covid vaccine passports, allowing those who have been vaccinated to attend public events while those have not are kept out.

Massimo Galli, head of the infectious diseases unit at Milan’s Sacco Hospital, agreed, telling The Times he backed giving passports to the vaccinated and to those who have had Covid and are likely to be immune.

Those people, and only those people, would be allowed access to theatres, cinemas and their own designated train carriages, he said. “That will be a motive for people to get vaccinated and help keep public areas safer,” he added.