The UK government has set up a 'spectacularly badly run lottery' which could bar most British lorries from Europe under a no-deal Brexit

  • Industry figures say the government’s no-deal Brexit plans would bar thousands of British lorries from entering EU countries.
  • Up to 90% of British trucks could be barred from operating in Europe in the event of a no-deal Brexit, which the Road Haulage Association said would bankrupt many firms.
  • The Road Haulage Association described the permit allocation process as “the most spectacularly badly run lottery.”
  • The Department for Transport said it was confident of securing a deal which would allow lorries to continue enjoying the current access they enjoy.

LONDON – A freight industry trade group has accused the UK government of organising a “spectacularly badly run lottery” which would see thousands of British lorries barred from entering Europe in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

More than 11,000 trucking firm operators have applied for an ECMT permit – a document from the European Conference of Ministers of Transport without which they could not continue operating in Europe after March in a no-deal scenario – but fewer than 1,000 are available, official figures show.

Hauliers began to find out on Monday if they were among the less than 20% who had been allocated such permits.

The new system would replace the current one which provides unlimited access to all EU countries for UK operators.

“We have always been clear that this was a lottery and, like all lotteries, there are more losers than there are winners,” said Rod MacKenzie, policy director at the Road Haulage Association (RHA).

“This was the most spectacularly badly run lottery.”

MacKenzie warned that many firms would face bankruptcy if they could not continue operating in the EU.

“These companies do not have big profit margins – they’re running on 2% or 3% margins,” he said.

“If you take out 90% of your fleet – effectively mothballing them – you’re simply not going to be able to turn a profit. The lack of permits will put hauliers out business.”

The European Commission has proposed steps to keep UK trucks operating in Europe for nine months after Brexit but they have not been agreed by the European Parliament with less than 50 days to go until the UK leaves the EU.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The government continues to work towards a deal and we are confident of securing a relationship with the EU which maintains the current, liberalised access we enjoy.

“This is very much in the interest of the EU as well as the UK. While we continue to prepares for all outcomes, we are confident that hauliers should not need an ECMT permit to continue operating in the EU.

“The Commission has already put forward proposals which would ensure hauliers continue carrying goods into the EU for in the event of no deal but we will continue to work on all possible contingency measures.”

The spokesperson added that more ECMT permits would be made available shortly.

Grayling’s no-deal Brexit plans ‘far too little, too late’

Multiple industry figures have accused Transport Secretary Chris Grayling of doing too little to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.

He has overseen numerous gaffes, including a decision on Sunday to cancel a ferry contract which had been awarded to a firm which did not own any ferries, and a widely mocked rehearsal of no-deal Brexit plans which saw 89 lorries driving around a disused airport in Kent.

The RHA’s Rod MacKenzie said: “In general, business does not have a great deal of faith in the Secretary of State for Transport.”

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