With all of the mess around Covid and exam results it is easy to forgot that we have a much bigger challenge ahead
In all of the flurry of nonsense I wanted to highlight the problem of licensing British lorries to work in the EU after the 31st December.
The process of authorising goods vehicles to operate across different jurisdictions is called cabotage. I am only writing this so that I can use that word, which I don’t get many chances to use.
On the 1st January we become a 3rd party nation and as such the EU will grant us a quota of permits for cabotage. This is the same proportionate quota that any 3rd party nation gets. Ending free movement of people ends the free movement of lorries too.
The problem is that this quota is much less than the number of UK vehicles that cross into the EU on a regular basis. Lots of UK haulage companies backed Brexit because they felt that they were being undercut by Eastern European hauliers, and as consequence we have committed to tight restrictions on foreign hauliers operating in the UK. We can negotiate a higher quota for UK hauliers to operate in the EU, but only of course as part of an agreement. This of course requires us to relax our restrictions on foreign hauliers which we won’t do.
Right now we are about 70% short of the number of licesenses we need.
We have known about this for years, but HMG have regarded this as a minor issue that will be wrapped in some mix of a deal or WTO terms.
As someone who uses road haulage loads, the potential disruption to UK trade, particularly imports and exports is unmeasurable. From the 1st January we probably have enough permits for essential food supplies and medicines, but not much else.
To understand how bad this is imagine the journey a bottle of wine takes to get to the UK. If there are no lorries to bring EU wine to the UK, we won’t be able to enjoy our favourite white Rioja, or Chateauneuf Du Pape.
New world wines come into the UK in tanks, via a specialist depot in Spain. Lots of other goods are the same – cocoa powder comes into the UK via the Netherlands. From Spain it is transferred into tankers and makes the final part of the journey via road.
It’s not just Sancerre that is affected. Its the £4.99 Cab Sav or Pinot Noir in your local Tesco Metro too. We can cut the duty on non-EU wines. We just won’t be able to ship them into the UK.
All of it depends on cabotage.
To make matters worse those British hauliers who do have permits will be stuck in the Farage Garage – a massive car park in Kent where 2000 HGVs will be held for days awaiting customs clearance. The disruption in Kent will be so severe that we will have an effective customs border around Kent with fines for hauliers entering the County without the right paperwork.
These arrangements aren’t final – with only 4 months to go we are still consulting on these arrangements, and are only just beginning these negotiations with the EU.
But at least I got to use the word Cabotage.