Regional businesses planning to move UK operations to mainland Europe in the event of a no-deal Brexit

Simon Reed of Simarco Worldwide

Simon Reed of Simarco Worldwide - Credit: Archant

One of the UK’s leading independent freight businesses has announced that Brexit has already begun to affect its international operations.

Simarco Worldwide, which is based in Witham in Essex, has revealed that it had received a “substantial” number of requests from domestic and foreign firms for help in preparing for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

Simarco has established a committee of senior managers in the wake of the 2016 referendum vote to minimise the impact of its outcome on trade, and agreed a “comprehensive” network of depots across the continent to insulate clients from potential disruption, whatever the outcome of Brexit is.

Simarco, which employs 360 people in all - 220 of whom are based in Witham - was invited to Downing Street earlier this month to take part in a Brexit briefing session with Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, along with some other transport companies and industry experts.

Co-founder and chief executive, Simon Reed said: “The draft terms agreed between Westminster and Brussels last month have failed to provide certainty for firms which import or export or logistics operators like ourselves who support those businesses and are trying to gauge the long-term consequences of the UK’s withdrawal.

“Almost from the day of the vote, we have had a substantial number of companies - some of which were existing clients - asking what is going on. Rather than simply wait for a political solution to arrive, therefore, we took it upon ourselves to be pro-active and put contingent systems and sites in place that will allow us and the companies with which we work to overcome whatever challenges there may be.

“Some of the businesses with which we’ve spoken have outlined plans to move some or all of their current UK operations to mainland Europe in the event of what they regard as a worst case, ‘no-deal’ Brexit - an eventuality which appears more likely almost by the day.

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“After extensive discussions with our European partners, we have been able to put together a network of more than 80 locations capable of supporting those firms and others wanting to limit the potentially negative effect of tariffs.

“Given all the time and effort which has been invested, I am confident that we have a strategy capable of meeting all the possible outcomes.”

Mr Reed’s comments come weeks after Simarco revealed that an expansion in its road, sea and air services both in the UK and abroad had generated a 20% rise in turnover over the course of the last year, taking its annual sales above £60m for the first time.

The company, which has extensive operations across Europe, recently also produced a Brexit white paper designed to brief customers relying on foreign trade.

Once news of a draft agreement was reached, Simarco advised importers and exports on the potential implications of the document which concluded negotiations between Westminster and Brussels.

In addition to already being an Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) - a network of approved firms able to safely and swiftly move goods across borders -Simarco has also applied to have all of its UK depots designated as External Transit Storage Facilities (ETSFs).

Mr Reed explained that becoming an ETSF would amount to its depots being awarded bonded warehouse status and mean goods chosen for inspection could be scrutinised in the depot instead of held up at national borders.

Simarco has also conducted talks with IT experts who have worked with HMRC about the alternatives for a possible post-Brexit digital customs structure.

He added: “Brexit is going to be the most significant challenge to the logistics industry in the 21 years that Simarco has been in business.

“We believe that cannot sit on the fence but have to do all we can to meet that challenge on our behalf and that of our clients.”