WHILE THE FTA CONTINUES TO PRESS THE GOVERNMENT TO PRIORITISE THE LOGISTICS INDUSTRY IN ITS BREXIT NEGOTIATIONS, SEAMUS LEHENY EXAMINES THE PROGRESS, IF ANY, THAT HAS BEEN MADE SINCE THE VOTE.
The High Court’s ruling that there must be a Parliamentary vote before prime minister Theresa May can invoke Article 50 has fuelled yet more uncertainty around the UK’s exit from the European Union.
While the vote itself is unlikely to delay the PM’s desired March deadline, the High Court decision is an embarrassment for the Government and does little to instil confidence in the planned separation. Brexit will impact on every element of the logistics chain and operators are keen to establish what the change means to their businesses.
So what more do we know since the vote to leave the EU in June?
The Government’s decision to back a third runway at Heathrow will have bolstered confidence in the UK’s ability to trade with other markets and there is little doubt that the outcome of the Brexit vote was a key factor in the decision-making process.
Theresa May has acknowledged that ministers need to make tough decisions in a post Brexit world so the Government was left with no option but to back Heathrow given its own recognition that the UK must strengthen its trade links with major trading partners outside of the EU.
However, the need now is to speed along the planning process to avert potential legal challenges from environmental and other campaigners who are set against any decision on expansion of Heathrow. The Government has opted for a free vote in the House of Commons in a year’s time, adding yet further delay and uncertainty for UK industry. Meanwhile, our European competitors’ airports such as Frankfurt, Schiphol and Charles De Gaulle have capacity in place and are ready to step in.
Without expansion at Heathrow, we could see UK businesses transfer manufacturing and distribution to the continent to take advantage of a wider range of air transport services to emerging markets.
But in the short term it’s still business as usual, nothing has changed. Once Article 50 has been triggered, the UK has two years to negotiate. However, the political situation in Europe will remain fluid throughout 2017 with planned elections in France, Germany, the Netherlands and possibly Italy so negotiations between the UK and EU are unlikely to be effected until the political landscape has stabilised.
There will be no practical changes for road operators until a deal has been agreed with the EU, which will be spring 2019 at the earliest. Until then, EU rules and obligations remain in force – as do the penalties if EU rules are not respected.
And post Brexit much will depend on the kind of deal brokered. Countries such as Norway and Switzerland, which are not EU members, implement most EU rules including those for road transport in return for very limited trade barriers. In the UK EU rules will initially be integrated into UK law through the Great Repeal Bill, which will come into force on day one of Brexit. The Government will then review all the legislation gradually and decide what it wants to keep.
However, many of the rules will still apply when operating on the continent even if the UK decides otherwise, not least because of international conventions to which the UK is party and which mirror EU rules. This is the case with drivers’ hours rules and the use of EU tachograph, which are regulated by the AETR convention.
The FTA will continue to press the Government to prioritise the logistics industry in its Brexit negotiations and will ensure that UK businesses can operate in and across Europe with minimal delay and administrative burden.