As Theresa May smarts from an all-out offensive by European Union officials and member state leaders on her much-vaunted Chequers plan for the UK’s future relationship with the EU, a continued lack of clarity around the potential impact of Brexit on road transport remains a serious cause of disquiet in the sector.
Despite repeated insistence by the prime minister that a Brexit deal can yet be reached with the EU-27 this autumn, there is now little over six months remaining before the UK’s scheduled departure date of 29 March – and the Road Haulage Association (RHA) has called on government and the EU to adopt a 21-month implementation period in the event that no other deal can be agreed.
This would provide businesses with “crucial breathing space” up until the end of 2020, the association said, the alternative to which – the UK crashing out of Europe next March without any transition arrangement – could be “catastrophic”.
Meanwhile, the government has begun to release contingency advice for businesses to follow should the much-discussed no-deal scenario become a reality, via a series of so-called technical notices.
An expected notice on international haulage has yet to be released – but the Department for Transport (DfT) has provided some guidance on the potential implications for driving in the EU.
In the event of a no-deal Brexit, after March 2019, UK driving licences may of themselves no longer be valid when driving in the EU, the DfT says – and for those moving to another EU country to live, they may not be able to exchange their licences after Brexit.
“If there is no deal with the EU, you may need to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in the EU,” said the technical notice.
“An IDP is a document which when carried with your driving licence means you would be able to drive outside of the UK including in EU countries. There are different types of IDP. Which one you need depends on which country you are driving in…
“You may be turned away at the border or face other enforcement action, for example fines, if you don’t have the correct IDP. You may also need an IDP to hire a vehicle when you are abroad.”
The cost of an IDP will be £5.50, says DfT.
However,arrangements for EU licence-holders visiting or living in the UK will not change after 29 March, DfT says.
“The UK does not require visiting motorists, for example those … who wish to drive on business, to hold a separate IDP to guarantee the recognition of their driving licence.
“When non-EU licence holders come to live in the UK on a temporary basis, we would continue to recognise their licence for a period of 12 months, before requiring the holder to either exchange their licence, where agreements exist, or to take a driving test.”
Another technical notice of relevance to the industry, on trading with the EU, was released in late August by HM Revenue & Customs.
“If the UK left the EU on 29 March 2019 without a deal, there would be immediate changes to the procedures that apply to businesses trading with the EU,” said the notice. “It would mean that the free circulation of goods between the UK and EU would cease.”
Among the guidance issued is the suggestion that in a no-deal scenario, hauliers would need to make Safety and Security Declarations for goods moving between the UK and EU, in the form of Exit (EXS) and Entry Summary Declarations (ENS).
“A carrier is generally required to submit an EXS to the customs authority of the country from which the consignment is being exported,” said the guidance.
“For consignments exported from the UK, the EXS generally forms part of the Export Declaration (a customs declaration).
“A carrier is required to submit an ENS to the customs authority of the country that the consignment is entering.”
The RHA said this would represent “new red tape” and a major change for international operators, with chief executive Richard Burnett adding that the guidance was “far too little” and had come “far too late”.
“Hauliers have been waiting for practical advice on the worst-case scenarios for many months, yet the government is leaving it to the eleventh hour, giving businesses little time to prepare,” he said.
However, the RHA welcomed confirmation by officials that driver and transport manager qualifications gained in the EU will be recognised by the UK, whereas this does not seem to be the case for UK workers in the EU – as well as the government’s commitment to explore new bilateral permits. The DfT has laid out its latest plans for a post-Brexit permit system in a response to a recent consultation, available here.
Said Richard Burnett: “We understand the government wants a comprehensive deal without quota limits. We would support that, and we hope it will be successful. Any system that limits access by quota is unacceptable.
“We still don’t know if the UK will require EU hauliers to obtain reciprocal permits to enter the UK, or if the UK will allow EU operators to enter the UK using their current community licences.
“Until we see the guidance on the criteria and allocation process for permits, operators will remain in the dark.”
He added: “Multiple fees for crossing different EU states are also a great concern. We will continue to work with government and others across the EU to find practical, simple and workable solutions that are in the interest of all the people and businesses of the UK and the EU.”
Meanwhile, preparations for an end to free movement across borders for hauliers are apparently underway in Kent – where Operation Brock, which is seeing the hard shoulders of the M20 being reinforced prior to its conversion into emergency long-term lorry-parking, is likely to be in place “for many years”, according to an impact report from Dover District Council.
This view is supported by a report from Kent County Council, suggesting the operation would run until 2023 at the earliest.
Operation Brock will entail the southbound M20 being made available for truck parking, while a 13-mile contraflow system would operate on the northbound carriageway.
In response to a freedom of information request from broadcaster Sky News, Kent County Council reportedly admitted that ‘Brock’ was an acronym for ‘BRexit Operations aCross Kent’, despite an official denial by the government that the project was related to Brexit.
Dover Council, which is the local authority for the Port of Dover and also the port health authority for both the port and the Channel Tunnel, could be obliged to operate checks on vehicles and cargoes in the event of a no-deal Brexit, but appears to have neither the power to stop vehicles leaving the port nor anywhere to park them while awaiting examination.
In terms of clearing export trucks through Customs, there are just two parking spaces at the Folkestone end of the Channel Tunnel, and only 80 for import trucks.