The government has revealed British freight and goods transport vehicles could lose the ability to operate in the EU after a no-deal Brexit.
The latest round of Brexit technical notices released by the Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) today, painted a bleak picture of what a no-deal could like for haulage companies, whom Britain relies on for transport of fresh fruit and veg.
Should EU Community Licences, which allow British drivers to automatically operate across Europe, become invalid for British drivers come March 30, then their contingency licences, called ECMTs, are limited in number, with the government stating: "We expect demand for ECMT permits will significantly exceed supply."
According to the technical notice, the ECMT licences still have restricted access to Italy, Austria, Hungary, Greece and Russia.
The government stated in the notice that a no-deal scenario could also mean delays at ports, with agri-food told to plan for other routes and disruption to supply chains.
The technical notice states: “In the unlikely event of no deal, UK hauliers could no longer rely on automatic recognition by the EU of UK-issued Community Licences. Hauliers may therefore no longer be able to access EU markets with their Community Licence alone. This would also end the ability of UK hauliers to perform cabotage.”
Such a scenario would spell disaster for the fresh fruit and veg trade in Britain which relies on a "Just-in-Time" delivery system from across the continent.
The notices also suggest Britain would be dependent on the EU continuing to accept UK-issued operator licenses, meaning Britain is in effect relying on Europe for goodwill.
“EU countries may choose to recognise that UK-issued operator licences and associated authorisations are based on the same standards as EU Community Licences and do not require further authorisations. This would ensure continued cross-border trade, but cannot be guaranteed.”
Alongside the annulment of shared licences such as Community Licenses which allow for frictionless trade, the government said businesses should start looking for alternative import routes due to potential blockages and delays at ports.
The new notice states: “There are likely to be new requirements at borders with the EU if we leave without a deal. It is possible that EU required checks at EU ports could create delays and also affect routes.
“In particular, agrifood goods may not be able to enter the EU except via a port with a Border Inspection Post (BIP). Hauliers should check if the requirements for safety and security declarations for importing and exporting goods apply to them.”
Dexeu warned companies to prepare for disruption to the supply chain, urging them to seek “alternative routes to move goods by roll-on-roll off haulage”.
The government said it will announce contingency plans for border delays this autumn, likely to be a larger version of Operation Stack.
Pauline Bastidon, head of European Policy at the Freight Transport Association said the notices confirmed what they already knew could happen in the event of a no-deal. She called on the EU to recognise British haulage licenses and qualifications.
"The publication of the government's No Deal Notices was overdue and is therefore welcomed by FTA. These notices, while confirming what we already knew concerning the impact of a no-deal Brexit on freight transport and borders, will hopefully help traders and logistics companies prepare for the worst case scenario.
“FTA recognises the Government's efforts to secure such agreements, either with the EU or with member states bi-laterally, and calls on EU-27 leaders and the European Commission to recognise the need for these contingency measures for freight transport, a sector which supports the entire economy."