Lack of Deal Leaves Dutch Companies Struggling to Prepare for Brexit

AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS - Britain is leaving the European Union in less than five months. Requesting another extension is not possible and it is unclear if a deal will be reached in the coming months. This will have a significant impact on companies in the Netherlands, one Britain's largest EU trading partners. 

Every day, as many as 60 trucks of Jan de Rijk Logistics cross the channel into Britain. The Dutch logistics company is preparing its drivers for all kinds of scenarios when Britain officially leaves the European Union at the end of 2020. Company CEO Fred Westdijk said the uncertainty of the Brexit withdrawal terms mean he is also preparing for the worst possibility.

"We have instructed our drivers that if they get stuck on the British border, that we will fly in security guards to guard the trucks while it's waiting for the border crossing. We have instructed our drivers to call our planning department, in case they get stuck and don't have food. Some of the scenarios show queues of maybe days," he said.

Britain voted to leave the European Union in a referendum in June 2016. This means Britain will no longer be part of the customs union, ending previous free trade arrangements with EU countries. It remains uncertain what type of trade rules will apply after Brexit.

In 2018, Britain was the third largest destination for Dutch exports. The Netherlands is the fourth export destination for Britain. The international food coloring company GNT Group has its headquarters in the Netherlands.

Close to a third of its trade is with Britain. Supply Chain Manager Hans Bruning feels there is still a lack of information and knowledge with his customers in Britain. "When we have some discussions with our customers, they're still asking really simple and easy questions about customs clearance and that kind of things.

What do we need? How can we organize this? We would have thought that these kinds of questions were already known by the customers.

But that they are there at this time that is really scaring us a little bit," he said. Despite the expected hiccups following the withdrawal, Dutch companies are eager to continue trading with Britain. Britain and the EU have until the end of October to reach a new separate trade deal.

If no agreement is reached, observers say companies might have to fall back on WTO trade regulations.

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