The Brexit crisis could be cooled somewhat if the EU and UK were to immediately extend a transit or connectivity accord beyond its expiry date at the end of December, the head of the Irish hauliers business group has said.
Aidan Flynn, general manager at the Freight Transport Association Ireland, said that chaos still looms for road transport and truckers in Ireland and the UK under a crash-out Brexit at Halloween, but that extending the ‘connectivity agreement’ which allows trucks to move through the UK into the rest of the EU would help remove some of the huge tailbacks that a hard Brexit entails.
The call comes as Boris Johnson visits Berlin and Paris to press the British case for a new transition deal from the EU as the Brexit row simmers.
The connectivity agreement runs through December and was first struck in March when the UK was due to exit the EU under the original agreement.
Under a no deal, trucks will be required to have ECMT permits, called after the European Conference of Ministers of Transport, to travel between EU member and surrounding countries. UK officials have already warned truckers they might need ECMT permits to transport goods in the EU and European Economic Area if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
UK bus and coach drivers have also been warned they will need an international driving permit to drive in the EU and European Economic Area, in the event of a crash-out at the end of October, implying that truckers and coaches in Ireland face a huge range of new regulations even if operating solely on the island.
“If they leave on October 31 and this connectivity piece hasn’t been extended beyond December 31 there will be massive, massive complications whereas if it were extended for six months it would give time for mutual arrangements to be made between the UK and the EU,” Mr Flynn said.
“The EU suggested the connectivity agreement but it very much depends on how the EU and UK get on between now and the end of October. That is kind of critical,” he said.
He plans to brief new Irish MEPs at the European Parliament in early September on the looming chaos entailed by a crash-out Brexit.
Regardless, the Freight Transport Association Ireland predicts the permits’ system will not negate sanitary checks on lorries carrying foods and other cargo, saying that 100 vehicles a day alone carrying chicken and eggs will be delayed at Dublin Port because mandatory checks will be required on those vehicles under single market rules.
Mr Flynn said that 13,000 commercial vehicles a day using 11 major routes between the North and the Republic, and not counting the commercial traffic on 200 cross-border regional roads, shows the chaos that looms if officials try to police the single market in Ireland.
The British government plans for a hard Brexit, called Yellowhammer, leaked in full last weekend, which warned of fuel shortages in the UK “took a lot of the industry by surprise”, Mr Flynn said.
The Irish government will have to grapple with the same issue as Ireland will struggle because so much of its energy supplies come through Britain, Mr Flynn said.
Sterling continued to slip against the euro, to 91.40p, as Prime Minister Johnson visited Berlin today and prepared to travel to Paris on Thursday.
“No-deal talk is all the rage ahead of Boris Johnson’s arrival in Paris,” said Chris Beauchamp at IG.