Chancellor Phillip claimed to be “listening to the voice of business” when he delivered the annual Spring Budget on Wednesday afternoon.
And it seems that his claims may have some legitimacy, at very least to the freight and logistics sector.
Prior to the much-anticipated speech, the first Budget since last year’s referendum, businesses from various industries had hoped Hammond would offer some clarity after the growing uncertainty that Brexit has caused.
Supporting the interest of UK freight forwarders and logistics experts, the British International Freight association (BIFA) Director General Robert Keen said the Chancellor should offer it support.
“The economic outlook post Brexit looks challenging and there is considerable uncertainty concerning the UK's future trading relations with Europe,” he said.
“BIFA members are acutely aware that major policy changes in light of Brexit are yet to be revealed, but we call on Phillip Hammond to take some immediate steps to improve the operating environment for a sector that is the lifeblood of the UK's international trade.”
Keen had called for an outright cut on fuel duty, and while Hammond did not guarantee such measures, separate plans to freeze duty rates for HGV Road Users and invest in transport infrastructure have been welcomed.
The largest component of the new investment into infrastructure will be £690 million for new local transport projects under the government’s new National Productivity Investment Fund, or NPIF.
“The government established the NPIF to provide over £23 billion of high-value investment between 2017-18 and 2021-22, with a focus on priority areas that are critical for improving productivity,” Chancellor Phillip Hammond said in a statement.
Expecting such investment, Keen had publicly welcomed new road building and road reconstruction projects in the build-up to the Budget announcement.
He said: “BIFA has said repeatedly that it is imperative that new road building and road reconstruction projects are not only implemented, but developed in such a way as to maximise their functionality.
“Any news of further transport infrastructure investment in tomorrow’s Budget will be warmly welcomed by BIFA members, which as freight forwarders, use these roads to move Britain’s visible domestic and international trade.”
And at Tudor Freight International the news received a pinch of appraisal despite Director Adam Johnson pressing the government to making a decision on trade agreements post-Brexit.
He said: “As a member of BIFA, we completely agree that the government must invest in sustaining and enhancing the infrastructure of transport, so of course the £690 million Productivity Fund is welcome news.
“However, we also repeat what BIFA has already said in regards to Brexit, that we are nowhere no close to establishing the future of the UK’s trading relations with the rest of Europe.”
With the Budget now done and dusted, the government may well press ahead with post-Brexit arrangements as the UK's departure from Europe becomes ever-closer.