The Withdrawal Agreement has received royal assent and confirmation by the European Parliament is expected to pass without incident meaning that the UK will leave the EU at the end of January.

However, this will just mark the beginning of a transition period which is set to last until the end of December and during which the UK will remain subject to EU legislation including rules affecting the Single Market and the Customs Union.

The UK is hoping to conclude a trade deal with the EU before the transition period expires, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson having put into legislation his commitment not to extend the December 2020 deadline.

This has left the UK’s major haulage groups grateful for some clarity on short-term UK-EU trade arrangements but unsure what will happen once the transition period ends.

For the Freight Transport Association (FTA), Director of Policy Elizabeth de Jong posed a list of “vital questions that urgently need answering”, so that the planning and testing of new trade procedures can begin.

“These cover issues including the exact processes and types of formalities required for goods moving across the borders, and the new systems, accreditations and training needed to make this happen successfully,” she explained.

Ms de Jong criticised the comment by Chancellor Sajid Javid that industry has had more than enough time to prepare for Brexit.

“Whilst discussions regarding the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU have been happening since the referendum in 2016,” she pointed out, “there has not been sufficient detail released for the logistics industry to prepare.”

For the Road Haulage Association (RHA), Chief Executive Richard Burnett is equally adamant that the Government must maintain unlimited road haulage access between the UK and the EU.

The RHA proposes a ‘Market Access Agreement’ to allow UK hauliers to continue to travel to, through and from the EU without having to apply for permits — with reciprocal arrangements for EU hauliers.

In a letter to the prime minister, Mr Burnett called for “clear and practical rules around the operation of lorries undertaking international transport” and urged negotiators to agree these quickly.

Last reviewed 27 January 2020