The Freight Transport Association has welcomed the call from prime minister Theresa May for a transition period to be a key priority for the Brexit talks. The FTA has been lobbying for such a period since Article 50 was triggered, to enable the preparation of the necessary systems and processes to ensure that post-Brexit trade can run smoothly.
However, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator warned that the EU would have to decide if such a period was in its interest.
“Any transition must respect the legal and financial framework of the Single Market. To quote the European Council: ‘Should a time-limited prolongation of Union acquis [accumulated legislation]be considered, this would require existing Union regulatory, budgetary, supervisory, judiciary and enforcement instruments and structures to apply’. Those are the words of the European Council. I think that everybody should remember them.”
And he warned: “Discussions on a transition – which will now take place since the UK has requested it –do not absolve us from the necessity of making ‘sufficient progress’. Progress on our three key issues remains more than ever necessary to build the trust needed to begin discussing our future relationship.”
Pauline Bastidon, the FTA’s head of European policy, said: “It is now imperative that the intentions outlined in Mrs May’s speech are followed by concrete actions. Logistics arrangements affect every part of our daily lives and need to be prioritised in Brexit negotiations. Customers need to be certain that vehicles and planes can keep moving, that drivers can operate across borders and supply chains will not have to face insurmountable challenges overnight on Brexit day. Setting up the necessary arrangements for post-Brexit trade will take time and effort to get right and both industry and the authorities deserve some certainty that the status quo will prevail until all parties are ready to proceed with new arrangements. As Mrs May said on Friday, people, businesses and public services should only have to plan for one set of changes as the country leaves the EU.
Bastidon also urged clarity from the government’s negotiators on the situation regarding trading arrangements with Ireland.
“Many businesses operate on an “island of Ireland” basis and their business models would be negatively impacted by any changes affecting the fluidity of trade and transport movements across the border. This needs urgent attention at the negotiating table, and FTA, and its sister membership body, FTA Ireland, will be pressing officials this week in Brussels to find a solution which enables Irish trading interests to continue to flourish with both UK and European customers,” she said.