FOR two years we have been eagerly awaiting the Government’s Brexit vision, set out at Chequers. However, it took only a week for it all to fall apart. A domestic cave-in to the Eurosceptic and continental suspicion from Michel Barnier has put May’s Chequers plan on thin ice, and, once again, left North-East business in the Brexit lurch.

You’d have to laugh, if it wasn’t for the now growing risk of no-deal, highlighted by Government’s intention to soon release no-deal preparation notes (tinned food anyone?).

The North-East is the most vulnerable region to Brexit, by the Government’s own analysis, with a predicted 16 per cent drop in GDP over the next 15 years, and has rightly been identified as an “unacceptable” Brexit outcome by Chamber members.

But no-deal is much more than an economic statistic. Without a proper agreement, all papers and licensing would become void when trading with our EU partners, meaning that trucks, boats and planes would be held up at the border and result in serious time delays, with the M20 predicted to become a new carpark for haulage lorries.

Take a Bulgarian cow, Penka, which strayed from EU-Bulgaria into non-EU-Serbia for a day, before returning. Because she didn’t “travel” with the right documents, it took three days for tests to check her health, before returning to the fields of Bulgaria. Now think that 75 per cent of British fish is exported, or that we import 51 per cent of fruit and veg and 30 per cent of chemicals. An appropriate deal would remedy this, no-deal, however, would not.

To handle new checks, The Institute for Government predicts it will take ports nine months to implement the major changes required to handle the new checks. A transition period would allow 28 months for this development and implementation of customs facilities, while no-deal would only give seven months for ports to make such radical changes to their systems and sites.

Teesport will be critical in making a success post-Brexit, but without a deal it will turn into a haulage carpark, causing cost and time delays for goods and severe disruption of supply chains. It is vital we secure a deal to ensure a timely and orderly Brexit transition.

The political stand-off between policy makers has only increased the burden on North-East businesses who just simply want to get on with it. Neil O’Connor of Chamber Member Fleet Recruitment, tells us about Brexit as a burden and as a distraction:

“The vehicle fleet industry, representing more than half of UK car sales, facing a double whammy, is suffering and orders are slowing month on month.

"The UK builds a large number of vehicles in the UK, but we don’t manufacture them, we assemble those vehicles and in the case of one brand, more than 70 per cent of the parts needed for assembly are imported from Europe.

"The prospect of a hard border deal is unnerving the industry with manufacturers seriously concerned about the impact of parts delays at the border, which would be a disaster, especially as those parts are currently timed to arrive just in time to ensure maximum efficiency. It’s that efficiency that is keeping car plants alive in the UK.

"There are also concerns over company car taxation. There are 2.6 million new vehicles sold every year of which 60 per cent are company cars. The tax drivers pay tax for the benefit of having a company car is already steep and has increased by 19 per cent this year to £2.48bn.

"The amount of tax a driver pays is calculated based on how much the car pollutes the environment. If you ordered a car that was environmentally friendly you paid less tax.

"However, because manufacturers have been caught using "defeat devices" that show an untrue emissions result, we now have the introduction of real world emissions testing. Expect the results to be shocking and drivers who previously thought their cars were environmentally friendly are potentially facing huge tax hikes that could kill the company car. The Government has given no clarity about what it intends to do and needs to urgently commit to reviewing the tax bandings once the full effects of real world testing is clear.”