Hauliers from the EU will be allowed to operate in the UK for at least nine months in the event of a no-deal Brexit under new legislation laid before Parliament this week.
The move follows a EU proposal in December that would allow UK hauliers the right to operate through the EU for a nine-month period after Brexit in the event of no-deal, subject to the UK agreeing a reciprocal deal.
Transport Minister Jesse Norman said: “Over 80% of haulage between the UK and continental Europe is undertaken by EU hauliers and it is important to ensure that the UK’s supply chains are protected.
“The UK needs to be sure that foreign products can be imported and UK products exported as usual. Our approach of offering access at this stage aims both to provide the reassurance needed for international freight flows to continue, and also to help ensure reciprocal arrangements for UK hauliers.”
The Road Haulage Association said it welcomed the move and, if reciprocated by the EU, represented “a major relaxation of the restrictions that would otherwise be imposed by quota-limited ECMT permits”.
However, the Association is concerned about the future for UK hauliers undertaking cabotage (the transport of goods between two places in the same country by a transport operator from another country) in the EU and called on ministers to reveal plans to protect those operations should the UK leave without a deal.
RHA Chief Executive Richard Burnett said: "This is a welcome move by Government but it is essential that if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, any road transport operations must be reciprocal.
"We cannot have one rule for UK hauliers and another for European operators. There is still a need for more clarity and detail, and we call for those assurances from ministers as a matter of urgency."
The RHA is also concerned by a lack of clarity for UK hauliers transiting through the EU to non-EU destinations such as Switzerland and Norway.
Richard Burnett said: “As the UK proposes to allow transit by EU hauliers we expect the Government to insist on reciprocal arrangements for UK hauliers. We also need to see progress on a long-term relationship that will allow road haulage to operate with fluidity across EU/UK borders.”
Jesse Norman confirmed the legislation contains provision to suspend EU hauliers’ rights to undertake cabotage operations in the UK. "We are putting in place measures to introduce such a suspension, which could be put into effect immediately after exit day if needed. Our expectation, however, is that such a suspension will not be necessary.”
The Government is also considering bilateral and unilateral measures with EU member states. France is separately progressing with a unilateral measure to provide wider access to UK hauliers in the event of no deal while 22 historic bilateral agreements would come back into effect should the UK leave the EU without a deal.
The UK has been allocated 984 annual and 2,832 short-term (valid for 30 days) ECMT permits for 2019, the Government has confirmed, which allow hauliers access to, from and between 43 European states, including all EU member states except Cyprus. ECMT applicants are expected to learn the outcome of their applications later this week.
Jesse Norman continued: “As we expect UK hauliers will have other means of ensuing market access to the EU, we will inform UK hauliers of the outcomes to provide certainty, but will allow a period of time before these need to be formally taken and paid for by successful hauliers. This approach has been agreed with road haulage stakeholders. The 2018 Act provides appropriate arrangements for distributing new permits as may be required under any future bilateral arrangements, if these are needed.
“Overall, we continue to believe that reciprocal market access will be secured for UK hauliers. While continuing to plan for all eventualities, we also believe that it is right to underline the fact that the UK is taking a positive and pragmatic approach."
Posted on: February 6th 2019