Thursday, December 20, 2018

Immigration Policy and Possible No-Deal Prompts More Freight and Road Haulage Comments

Sorry, It's All About the Brexit (Again)
Shipping News Feature
UK – With comparatively little industry news this week as firms wind down for the Christmas break Brexit policy, or lack of, continues to dominate the headlines, nudged briefly into second spot by the drone attacks on Gatwick Airport. Once again freight and logistics lobby groups have felt it necessary to issue a variety of statements on both immigration and no-deal scenario issues.

The white paper we published details of yesterday on the question of Britain’s future immigration policy has come swiftly under more fire. Yesterday it was the Freight Transport Association (FTA) attacking the measures and today Road Haulage Association (RHA) Chief Executive condemned the concept criticising the suggested minimum £30,000 salary threshold, and saying:

“The Government should be setting out an immigration policy based on what the country needs, not on arbitrary salary criteria. Many of the skilled jobs the economy relies on won’t meet the proposed threshold, leaving employers struggling to fill vacancies, and stunting economic growth.”

The FTA was equally unimpressed today with the European Union’s contingency plans for the event of a no-deal Brexit and Pauline Bastidon, FTA’s Head of European Policy & Brexit, who yesterday welcomed news of Britain’s continued inclusion in the Common Transit Convention (CTC), was decidedly unimpressed by the statement from Brussels earlier this week and commented: <

“The EU’s very limited no-deal contingency plans will not allow trade to flow freely between the UK and EU, confirming expectations of border delays, supply chain disruptions, significant additional red tape for traders and operators alike, and restrictions to transport. While the FTA is pleased to see the EU27 taking steps to ramp up no-deal contingency planning, their proposals fall short of what would be necessary to allow our industry to keep the supply chain intact and trade moving.

“The proposals for aviation and road haulage, which FTA had relentlessly campaigned for in Brussels and other European capitals, are only temporary and could be revoked by the European Commission at any time. Member states are banned from negotiating more permanent agreements with the UK or going above and beyond the minimal rights granted in the European Commission’s proposal. Furthermore, the proposals need to be adopted by the European Council and the European Parliament and are therefore not something operators and traders could rely on at this stage, there is a risk they could be rejected by either institution.”

“Member states are simply told that they will have a duty to enforce the full customs and regulatory regime on day one of a no-deal Brexit. No consideration is given to a potential ‘light touch’ approach in the short term; considering the level of preparedness of infrastructure at the borders (on both sides), taking such an approach is likely to be a recipe for disaster.

“Furthermore, the scope of the proposals is very limited: only UK-EU and EU-UK haulage routes will be covered, and UK registered operators will only be able to perform intra-EU international deliveries if they are in possession of an ECMT permit, and the number of these to be allocated to UK hauliers would only cover a small fraction of the needs of the industry. Cabotage will be effectively prohibited, meaning that operators based in Northern Ireland would not be able to access the domestic Irish haulage market, and vice versa.”

“Logistics is the beating heart of the economy, and one on which most businesses, including manufacturing plants, hospitals and shops, have come to rely on. The industry is ready to take action, but it needs clear directions and a supportive environment, with enough time to adapt and the proper infrastructure in place.”

The FTA is taking an ever stronger line on the possibility of the complete failure of the withdrawal talks and a clearly concerned Deputy Chief Executive, James Hookham, spoke out today of his worry that trailers will face extreme delays when passing through from the French Channel ports into the UK. He commented that he fully expected to see a collapse of services as major arterial roads clog up due to aggressive enforcement of border controls by the French authorities.

Mr Hookham’s comments were backed up by Heidi Skinner, the Policy and Public Affairs manager at the FTA and who has much experience working within the Westminster coterie and who predicted that such a scenario might initiate Operation Brock, the plan to revise the motorway system in Kent to maintain the slow transit of trucks headed to and from Dover in particular.

Ms Skinner warned that such an occurrence would inevitably lead to drivers running out of driving time, a possibility that has not been discussed by government and therefore an indication of flexibility was required, much as happened when the ‘Beast from the East’ last year caused severe delays for HGVs and prompted a relaxation of the Hours of Service regulations.

Photo: Operation Brock, an alternative to Operation Stack in its current form, would install a contraflow system on the northbound carriageway of the M20 between junctions 8 and 9 while lorries queue for the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel. The system, due to come into use early next year, is expected to reduce traffic diverted onto smaller local roads by giving access to these two junctions.