The haulage industry has warned of the potential damage a no-deal Brexit could cause, after a Department for Transport paper warned there were fewer than 4,000 EU permits for UK truck drivers.
The paper sets out how international ECMT licences, which are issued by the International Transport Forum and cover entry into and exit from 43 EU countries, would be distributed in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The permits would be shared among the UK’s estimated 38,000 hauliers.
At present, the UK’s membership of the single market means an unlimited number of hauliers can travel across the EU. However, road haulage associations have warned that the limited number of ECMT permits could cause chaos among businesses if no deal is reached.
The DfT’s paper set out how the permits would be distributed. Preference would be given to vehicles making large numbers of international trips, as well as those that meet Euro 6 emissions standards. Those vehicles would qualify for one of 984 annual permits or 2,592 monthly permits, while there are only 240 monthly permits available for lorries only meeting Euro 4 or 5 emissions standards.
There would also be an element of random selection, allowing smaller operators a chance to gain permits.
Road Haulage Association policy director Rod McKenzie criticised the government’s approach, saying it felt like the criteria devised “had been done on the back of a fag packet”.
He said: “There simply aren’t enough permits for the vehicles of hauliers who want to get across the Channel – do the maths.
“We desperately need a deal. All the stuff around ECMT is not a surprise. We’ve been warning our haulage members about it for some time, but it goes to show the complete lack of preparedness for a hard Brexit.”
The DfT admitted there would not be enough permits to go around, saying: “Applications for ECMT permits will exceed the number of permits available. Therefore, criteria will be applied.”
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald was also critical. He told the Financial Times: “This guidance is a foretaste of the havoc hauliers will face if the government fails to retain the community licence system after Britain leaves the EU. A lorry lottery would cause huge disruption to the UK’s logistics network and wider economy.”