With fears of endless delays and hundreds of idled trucks increasing across the British hauling industry in the likely event of a no-deal Brexit later this month, members of the U.K.’s Freight Transport Association (FTA) were cautiously optimistic today about a March 4 tentative agreement between the European Union’s Parliament and its Member States that could grant ECMT permits for limited types of travel throughout the E.U.
The ECMT permits, named for the European Conference of Ministers of Transport, are the primary road haulage permits that currently allow U.K. trucks free access to roads in all E.U. states. In the event of a “hard Brexit,” these permits would be revoked on the March 29 Brexit deadline. In the chaos that was expected to follow, some air charter carriers were expected to ramp up operations for shippers desperate to import and export goods from the U.K.
The FTA said the agreement was a hard-fought victory for the British trucking industry, but it is only a stopgap measure. The agreement stipulates that it would automatically sunset just nine months after the Brexit date and can be revoked by the E.U. without warning at any time. In addition, the agreement still has not been confirmed.
Sarah Laouadi, FTA’s European policy manager, said the agreement, “will give some respite to those concerned about the future of their businesses, but is far from offering frictionless operating conditions and should still be viewed in light of the threat posed to the UK’s trading relationships by a no deal departure from the E.U.”
Martin Meacock, director of product development at Descartes, an IT company that is broaching Brexit issues with clients told Air Cargo World that he agrees the measure will provide some immediate relief to avoid a day-one no-deal effect, but that “like most of these transitional arrangements, it is temporary and does not help companies make long term plans, leaving them with the same uncertainty until a final agreement or time line is or is not determined.”
Even if it remains in place, the ECMT deal would not provide the same level of access the U.K.-based haulers have today, Laouadi added. “Shippers have come to rely on fully flexible logistics operators, who can move goods as and when necessary, but this would not be possible under the contingency approved today,” she said in a Monday statement. “For instance, cabotage rights in the E.U. would be limited significantly, and progressively reduced during the nine-month period under review, with no cabotage rights at all in the final two months of the contingency period.”
Still, she praised the tentative agreement as a “safety net,” albeit a limited one, that will keep the U.K. involved in world trade. Laouadi concluded by saying Prime Minister Theresa May’s offer of a Parliamentary vote to take a no-deal Brexit “off the table” is a positive step, but added that “businesses cannot trade on ‘what ifs?’ and ‘maybes’ – there is still much confirmation needed for modes of transport other than road, and it is vital that clarification on future trading terms is provided if Britain is to keep trading efficiently after leaving the E.U.”
Meacock said that if a withdrawal agreement is achieved, this is “only the start of the negotiations on any future trading arrangements,” and in the mean time, “companies will continue to face an uncertain future until a clear outcome is decided with a realistic implementation period.”Like This Post