North Lincolnshire's lorry drivers face extra red tape if there is no Brexit deal
CHANGES: HGVs pictured travelling along the A180. Inset, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.
By Scunthorpe Telegraph | Posted: 12 Feb 2018
AN EMERGENCY law is being rushed through Parliament to ensure North Lincolnshire hauliers can continue to access Europe even if Brexit talks collapse.
The European Union’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, hardened his stance on introducing border checks after Theresa May confirmed this week that the UK will leave the customs union, making a hard Brexit a real possibility.
To ensure goods can continue to move by road between the UK and Europe if the divorce talks end without a deal, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has ordered a new hauliers’ permit system to be fast-tracked through Parliament.
The Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill – currently making its way through the House of Lords – will allow truck drivers to revert back to the pre-EU membership system of applying for “third-country” permits to travel through certain European countries.
The rule change could create extra paperwork, costs and delays for tens of businesses based in North Lincolnshire, with the south bank of the Humber a major base for haulage and storage firms. The base allows quick access to Immingham, the UK’s busiest port by tonnage, and also the ports at Grimsby and Hull.
As part of the changes, the Government will also sign up to the 1968 Vienna Convention – universal road rules written by the United Nations – to ensure UK operators driving on the continent comply with the road safety rules of those EU countries which demand the registration of all trailers travelling on their roads.
Mr Grayling, a Cabinet minister, said he remained “confident” negotiators would secure a deal that guaranteed “liberal access” to Europe but said the Bill helped prepare for any eventuality.
“This Bill ensures we have plans in place if the deal requires a permitting system,” he said.
The majority of the smaller independent logistics firms in North Lincolnshire focus on UK-wide operations, leaving cross-Europe transport to international outfits such as DFDS – which declined to comment on the changes.
John Salmon, owner of BSB Transport in Stallingborough – which no longer carts goods abroad – said the permit system proved restrictive in the past.
“It would depend on the buoyancy of the demand as to how many permits a country would release,” said Mr Salmon. “For example, Holland is known as the ‘corridor of Europe’ because everyone transits through.
“They were one of the countries where, because their hauliers were having such a hard time, they killed all permits. I don’t think permits is necessarily the answer but we will see.”
Mr Salmon said he thought it was unlikely other EU countries would take a hard line on access for British lorry drivers given tens of thousands of European-registered heavy-good vehicles enter UK ports every day – a freedom their industries are likely to want to keep in place, he suggested.
The Road Haulage Association welcomed the “contingency measures” being brought in by the Government but the industry body stressed that “the free-flow of goods to the rest of Europe must be maintained” after Brexit.
Chief executive Richard Burnett said: “This is an enabling Bill to instigate a contingency to cover a negotiated settlement involving permits, or the worst-case scenario – that we get no deal.
“The road freight industry needs clarity as soon as possible as regards what is being negotiated.
“We want to see a system where licensed UK and EU operators can undertake international road haulage to, from, and through the UK and EU without any additional burden or cost.”