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Revealed: How a no-deal Brexit could cripple European touring

There will be miles of queues at major ports within 24 hours if the UK and EU fail to agree on access for hauliers after Brexit, the RHA has warned

By Jon Chapple on 25 May 2018

UK haulier

image © Bluebus/Flickr

A ‘hard’ Brexit that sees Britain crash out of the EU with no deal on road haulage would be catastrophic for the European live music industry, leading to gridlock at ports such as Dover and Calais and major tours grinding to a halt, UK hauliers have warned.

More than 10,000 trucks per day pass through the Strait of Dover with no vehicle checks other than passport control, according to Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association (RHA). That number has tripled since 1993, and it’s crucial for the touring business that hauliers continue to enjoy permit-fee travel on both sides of the English Channel, says Burnett.

“Using Calais as an example, if you’re going to have to check every truck and it takes two minutes to check, you’re going have 17-mile tailbacks within 24 hours,” he tells IQ.

Worse still, Burnett reveals that non-EU trucks with clean paperwork typically take about three hours – not two minutes – to clear customs, illustrating the scale of the problem facing hauliers and the industry as a whole after 29 March 2019.

In addition to the standard international operator’s licence, hauliers working in the European Union also require a ‘community licence’ which gives access to all 28 EU member states, and also allows transit through to non-EU nations. British drivers are currently automatically part of this community through the UK’s EU membership.

Britain’s current ECMT quota is 1,224… enough to last a day and a half

However, warns the RHA, when the UK leaves the union “we forfeit our right to be part of this community”, and hauliers wishing to avoid time-consuming customs checks will need to fall back on multilateral ECMT permits, which are allocated to the UK on a quota basis. (This, says the association, is the British government’s current contingency plan in the event of a ‘no-deal’ scenario.)

Britain’s current quota is 1,224 – enough to last all of a day and a half.

In addition to the obvious disruption to concert tours, Burnett says such a scenario could cause untold damage to the UK trucking and freight sector, which is regarded as among the best in the world.

“Many major artists fly in their gear from around the world, then load up in British hauliers to move their concert gear into Europe,” he says. “These British hauliers are big names, and trusted experts in their field.

“It’s essential for them that there are no delays at hard borders for the UK supply chain – and even more critical for the music industry, which is working to extreme timescales and deadlines.”

While the RHA, says Burnett, is in “constant dialogue” with the British government to fight for the interests of its members, it appears to be making little headway: “The impression I get at the moment is that the secretary of state for transport has shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘Well, if we can’t get more permits, we’ll just have to let more European hauliers in,” he explains.

“There are so many question marks over the negotiations, and the clock is ticking”

Reached for comment, a spokesperson for the Department for Transport (DfT) tells IQ the government is confident it can secure a mutually beneficial deal for the road haulage sector post Brexit.

“We are confident that the UK and the EU can reach a positive deal on our future partnership, as this would be to the mutual benefit of both the UK and the EU,” reads a statement from the DfT. “As the prime minister set out in her Mansion House speech, we want to protect the rights of road hauliers to access the EU market and vice versa.”

Burnett, however, says the industry has “no confidence” in the government’s position, and another person close to the situation dismisses the statement as being “the normal rhetoric that I’d expect from both Number 10 and the DfT”.

“The industry is nervous,” Burnett concludes. “We still have no idea what’s going to happen. “There are so many question marks over the negotiations – are we in or out of the Customs Union, for example – and the clock is ticking.

“What is clear is that nothing’s changed. We’re very close to government, and we’ve been sharing lots of information – saying to them that we need to have exactly the same thing [permit-free access for hauliers] going forward. But we’re not getting any confidence at the moment that they are any closer to finding a solution.”


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