The Freight Transport Association has warned that it’s confidence in the government’s ability to deliver a frictionless Brexit is “fast collapsing”.
Talks started again this week ahead of a crunch meeting in Brussels in three weeks time.
James Hookham, FTA deputy chief executive said: “Of the eight demands made in FTA’s list of essentials to ‘Keep Britain Trading’ issued at the beginning of the year, not a single one has been progressed.
“Details of whether or not the country will have a Transition/Implementation Period are still unclear, there is still no decision on what Customs arrangements we will have from March 2019 onwards.
“We keep getting told that all food and agricultural exports to the Continent and Ireland will be checked at EU ports – but there is nowhere to check them, and the system to check them does not exist. We still don’t know if we will be able to employ the 43,000 truck drivers in the UK that are nationals from another member state – that’s 13 per cent of our driver workforce! There is no clarification on whether UK drivers’ qualifications are to be recognised, so they could well be barred from driving their own vehicles on the Continent.
“But the real show stopper is that, under European law, unless an agreement is reached, there will only be 103 international haulage Permits to cover the 300,000 journeys made by British trucks to Europe each year. The logistics industry is being asked to decide who would get a Permit to Drive if there are not enough to go around – in effect, being asked to destroy the businesses of its international haulage members.”
Hookham said the industry’s frustration with the lack of progress is building daily. “Logistics businesses simply cannot answer their customers’ questions about how they will move goods after Brexit. Manufacturers and retailers are losing faith and fear that post-Brexit Britain is at real risk of becoming nothing more than a series of road blocks at our ports and airports.
“What is really making our members angry is that these real, legitimate concerns are simply being dismissed by some members of the Government on the basis that it will not be in the EU’s interests to impose them. This is a reckless attitude to take and is playing chicken with crucial parts of the British economy and the livelihoods of the seven million Britons in the industry.
“All the evidence is that the other EU member states are recruiting hordes of border officials to enforce their rule book, regardless of the cost to their businesses and consumers. Expecting economic realism to kick in after 50 years of top-down bureaucracy is a bit of a stretch from UK politicians who have always slammed the EU for its obsession with rules and bureaucracy. The reliance on the other side blinking first is hanging the logistics industry out to dry.
“To date, all the focus has been on what the new Customs arrangements will be. But this misses the point. The real issue will be the lack of permits to allow the trucks carrying the goods to travel to the Continent in the first place. This is the trucking equivalent of the threat to the aviation sector because of the ending of Europe-wide agreements when the UK leaves the Single Market.”