ECMT Permits Finally Doled Out to UK Hauliers as Brexit Looms

UK – EUROPE – As the week ends so the pace of negotiations for Britain’s exit from the EU begin to move with a little more pace. Sunday 13 December has been named as the new ‘deadline day’, the latest of several it seems. At least this week there was news for UK road haulage operators, although not necessarily good.

British hauliers applied for permits to work in Europe for thousands of their vehicles yet, as we have detailed previously, less than 1,700 were being allocated by the EU. This effectively means that the bulk of driver accompanied trailers arriving in the UK will be from EU countries. The policy is likely to see a seismic shift from accompanied to unaccompanied trailers.

The ECMT permits allow both vehicles carrying most general freight items, or indeed simlpy travelling empty throughout the EU to transit freely. The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has repeatedly warned there would not be enough ECMT permits available to meet demand in a no-deal Brexit situation and chief executive Richard Burnett takes up the story: “There are just 14 working days left until the end of the year and the UK and EU are cutting it desperately fine.

The UK haulage industry is, quite literally, resting on a knife edge. If a deal is struck then the need for permits becomes largely redundant. Right now there are just over 1,600 annual permits being allocated to meet applications for over 10,000 lorries That’s not enough and the system cannot last indefinitely.”

In 2019, the UK exported GBP294 billion of goods and services to EU member states, equivalent to 43% of all UK exports. Goods and services imports from the EU were worth GBP373 billion, 52% of all UK imports. Continuing, Richard Burnett said:

“The impact on these figures if UK hauliers have no alternative but to use ECMT permits will hit hauliers, businesses and consumers hard. The entire economy will suffer. In the event of a no deal we hope the reassurances we are getting from Government to have a six-month glide path in place to provide similar access as that which we have now are real.

“[The] allocation is for annual permits only. An additional number of monthly ECMT permits will be allocated to UK hauliers when any alternatives will be known. The way we do business with the EU will change from 1 January.

If UK hauliers still have to rely on a permit ‘lottery’ to access mainland Europe, the return on their business will not meet the investment.

It’s inevitable that many will inevitably, throw in the towel.”