Haulage industry frustration over planning for 'no deal' Brexit at Immingham and Grimsby ports
HGVs pictured travelling along the A180
By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 6 Sep 2018
The freight and haulage sector – a major employer in the region – is unhappy about the Government’s arrangements and advice for a ‘no deal’ Brexit. Parliamentary Correspondent Patrick Daly finds out why.
For two years, haulage bosses have been asking ministers for clarity on how they will be able to move their goods through Europe if there is no Brexit agreement.
Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, finally answered that question last month when his department released, in one full flurry, its advice, for all industries, on how to prepare if Britain crashes out of the European Union without a deal in place by March 2019.
Lorry drivers will need to carry permits to enter EU countries (a factor already known about) and will need to handover additional paperwork about its cargo and its movements – changes which will slow down freight travel.
The announcement was met with the response of “far too little, far too late” by the logistics sector. Bosses wanted reassurance or instructions much earlier than seven months before the possible ‘no deal’ cliff-edge.
Northern Powerhouse minister at Immingham docks
Much of the focus in the national news has been on the busy Dover to Calais crossing and how it could become backed-up with traffic in the event of extra customs checks.
But yet North East Lincolnshire is also a major transport hub and destination for goods entering and leaving the UK.
Passengers might not have reason to go to Immingham or Grimsby docks for their holiday excursions but the two ports combined make up the largest port by tonnage in the country.
Every year, 55 million tonnes of goods come through the ports, with heavy loads of Chinese and Indian steel, coal, bio-fuel, refrigerated goods and cars being loaded and unloaded.
Associated British Ports, the company that runs the Humber ports, said it continued to liaise with the Government over what needed to happen before the exit date.
A spokeswoman said: “As Britain’s largest ports operator, we are committed to working closely with the Government to make sure that UK trade can continue to flow and grow post-Brexit.”
Laborious checks or extra paperwork on goods being shipped in and out of the UK could have a detrimental impact not only on the ports, but also the transport and storage companies that are based in northern Lincolnshire.
DFDS has a large presence at Immingham, occupying 700,000m sq of the docks, with the ability to handle vessels and cargo coming in, as well as having a significant freight network to transport the goods. It is the largest freight company in northern Europe.
Danish transport company DFDS has a major presence at Immingham (Image: DFDS)
A spokeswoman for the Danish-owned firm said it could “not provide comment at this time” but directed inquiries to the UK Chamber of Shipping, an umbrella organisation for the industry.
Bob Sanguinetti, chief executive of the chamber, warned of disruption for both sides if politicians could not come to a Brexit agreement.
“Fundamentally, we are against the concept of a ‘no deal’ Brexit as it is likely to be the most disruptive outcome for trade,” said Mr Sanguinetti.
“Businesses on both sides of the UK-EU border need a deal and agreement on terms.
“As the [Government’s] technical notice on trade confirms, a ‘no deal’ Brexit would mean reverting to World Trade Organisation rules for cross-border customs and processes.
“Even with this guidance, WTO rules would be disruptive for shipping industry and businesses on both sides of the UK-EU border.
“The notices are a stark reminder that ‘no deal’ must be avoided at all costs if we are to preserve the ease of trading across the EU border.”
Immingham Docks (Image: Rick Byrne/thanks to POM flying club)
Hauliers are also disgruntled after being told, as part of the Government notices, that a ‘no deal’ situationwould add red tape to their cross-border travel.
The Government has informed the industry that operators would be required to submit two types of safety and security declarations upon arrival in each EU country – an exit summary declaration (EXS) to the customs authority from which the consignment is being exported, and an entry summary declaration (ENS) to the customs authority that the consignment is entering.
Road Haulage Association, a representative body for the industry, bemoaned the fact that it had been asking for this level of detail for close to two years.
Chief executive Richard Burnett said: “This announcement is far too little and comes far too late.
“Hauliers have been waiting for practical advice on the worst-case scenarios for many months, yet the Government is leaving it to the eleventh hour giving businesses little time to prepare.”
The RHA is now calling for a buffer zone transition period to be put in place, even in the event of a ‘no deal’ outcome.
Ministers had agreed for there to be a two-year implementation phase between April 2019 and January 2021, to allow post-Brexit systems and adjustments to be put in place by both sides.
Northern Lincolnshire is a major hub for logistics firms
But that agreement is unlikely to be honoured should a deal not be reached before the March deadline.
Mr Burnett added: “We’re still no closer to knowing what a post-Brexit world will look like, even after the Government’s first batch of technical notices on ‘no deal’ contingencies.
“What we do know is that there’s not enough time for the UK or EU governments to put sufficient staff or infrastructure in place to manage new customs or road haulage permits systems before March.”
The concerns reverberating through the logistics sector was only made worse last month after a meeting between industry figures and transport secretary Chris Grayling.
According to reports in the Daily Telegraph, hauliers said the secretary of state seemed to have little understanding that a ‘no deal’ scenario could prevent UK lorry drivers from entering EU member states.
“People who know nothing about this industry are making vital decisions on it, and that is clear when you talk to Chris Grayling about what Brexit will mean to the UK international transport community – he is out of touch and lacking in key information,” Kevin Hopper, managing director of Brian Yeardley Continental in West Yorkshire, told the newspaper.
The Department for Transport looked to counter the complaint by insisting, as stated in the ‘no deal’ notices, that efforts had been made to establish a ready-to-go permit system if a deal was not struck in time.
“The Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Act 2018 – which recently received royal assent on July 19, 2018 – marks a significant step in the Government’s preparations for exiting the EU,” said a Government spokesman.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has been criticised by the haulage industry for his Brexit preparations
“It gives the UK the powers it needs to support British hauliers to continue operating internationally after exiting the EU.
“While the Government’s overall aim in its negotiations with the EU is to retain reciprocal access for road hauliers, this legislation provides us with the flexibility to have systems in place if a permit system is required, and provides reassurance for hauliers to continue planning for a smooth EU exit.”
The permit system that lorry drivers would have to fall back on would require logistics companies to apply to travel through EU countries. There would be no guarantee permits would be granted by every country, meaning UK hauliers could be denied access to major thoroughfares through the Continent.
Michael Edwards, a former South Killingholme logistics company owner and freight specialist, said permits would make travel more difficult, especially for smaller operations.
“Permits are quite honestly a backwards step in my opinion,” said Mr Edwards, who used to run a freight company employing 650 drivers.
Michael Edwards, freight expert from northern Lincolnshire
“I can remember permits in the 1980s and 1990s – you used to have to apply to Newcastle for so many permits at a time.
“All this is going to come back and haunt us unless somebody comes in with a deal to make it work.
“We seem to have forgotten that it is relatively easy to be an international haulier in this day and age, as long as you have the relevant paperwork – and even the paperwork is basically non-existent.
“In the future, if you are a one-man band and you need to get permits and be at the mercy of the rest of Europe, I don’t know whether you would bother.”
To add to the industry’s woes, there is no guarantee that the permit system vouched for by UK ministers will be accepted by Brussels.
In its ‘no deal’ briefing – released more than a month before the UK notices – the EU Commission predicted delays for freight coming from the UK.
“Transport between the United Kingdom and the European Union would be severely impacted [in the event of ‘no deal’],” said the EU briefing on July 19.
“Controls at borders could cause significant delays, e.g. in road transport, and difficulties for ports.”
With the UK facing a Brexit cliff-face in only seven months, the EU’s warnings paint an ominous picture for northern Lincolnshire’s thriving logistics trade if ministers do not sign on the dotted line.