SEAMUS LEHENY SAYS THE FTA HAS SOME SERIOUS QUESTIONS FOR THE GOVERNMENT FOLLOWING THE BREXIT VOTE.
The outcome of the UK referendum on Brexit will have far-reaching implications for the movement of freight throughout Europe. And even those moving goods solely in the UK will be impacted by the decision as the country ceases to be governed by EU directives. The FTA has been inundated with inquiries from members since the ‘leave’ vote and has identified key issues for those operating in the EU.
The trouble with the Government’s immediate plan is that there doesn’t seem to be one. Brexit appears to be a moving target. The FTA aims to present the Government with a list of Brexit issues for resolution to encourage and prioritise the issues that matter to our industry.
One of the biggest issues for operators in the UK is the border and how any enforcement will be carried out. Will we see the UK border repatriated from Calais to Kent? How will it work with regards to our land border with the Republic of Ireland? The trade consequences of this are huge and an issue FTA will closely monitor. The other big issue for vehicle operators, importers and exporters in the UK revolves around what will happen to the UK’s custom tariffs and trade procedures for new trade deals, including the one with the EU Single Market. From the FTA’s perspective, all trade deals must be ‘shipper-friendly’. We don’t want to see the burden of new administration procedures for the industry, such as the introduction of TIR Carnets. Many readers involved in shipping or haulage to non-EU countries will understand the timescale, administration and cost involved in getting TIR Carnet approval.
The other aspect concerning customs procedures would be the UK quitting the EU Customs Union before there is something else to replace it. The scope for border and customs officials in other member states to impose tariffs and other restrictions on UK goods would be unlimited.
More than 44% of the UK’s exports are with the EU single market so tearing up the arrangements that help ensure that goods get to customers without additional tariffs and paperwork burdens would be a huge risk to existing trade. We also need to examine under what structure and in what forums there could be special and distinctive arrangements for trade between the UK and Ireland, especially across the land border of NI and ROI as well as Irish traffic transiting through GB as a land bridge to the continent.
Brexit will also have implications on our domestic regulations governing transport such as drivers’ hours rules, vehicle emissions and vehicle type approval. Again it will be vital that Government has systems in place to review the application of EU directives and regulations into UK law – just how will the Government undertake its scrap, change or keep exercise? The FTA will ensure that it is involved in these future discussions to reflect the demands and needs of its members.
Finally, on the matter of EU funding for Infrastructure projects, particularly the EU Ten-T programme (Trans European Transport Networks, improving connectivity of roads, air and sea ports within the EU). The UK Government will have to ensure that projects that were deemed eligible for this funding will receive similar investment from Westminster in lieu of the EU money that will no longer be available. It is therefore critical that UK regions such as Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the South West which are already disadvantaged in terms of connectivity with the rest of GB and Europe, receive adequate funding for future infrastructure projects.
At the time of writing I am preparing to meet the new head of the Brexit planning team at the Department for Infrastructure in Belfast to discuss the key challenges and any potential opportunities that face the local transport industry in a post Brexit Northern Ireland. My policy colleagues at the FTA are similarly meeting with Department for Transport officials in London as well as the Scottish and Welsh governments. Every industry will want its voice heard when negotiations begin, therefore it is crucial the transport sector has a clear plan on which to engage with Government.