The cabotage rights of EU hauliers in the UK could be suspended if the EU does not agree to allow UK hauliers continued access to Europe in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the UK government has warned.

The EU is currently working on legislation that will allow UK hauliers basic rights to conduct operations to, from and through the EU for a limited period of nine months after exit, if there is no deal.

After that period UK hauliers will need a European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) permit for each truck transporting goods to Europe.

However, with only around 1,500 annual permits and 4,500 monthly permits on offer, the RHA has already warned that the permits will only cover around 5% of demand from the sector.

The government wants the proposed EU legislation to go further. Last week transport minister Jesse Norman announced draft legislation guaranteeing European hauliers access to the UK market “to help ensure reciprocal arrangements for UK hauliers”.

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However Norman warned that if the EU cannot come up with a reciprocal arrangement “we will review the UK’s offer to EU hauliers".

"Our legislation contains provision to suspend EU hauliers’ rights to undertake cabotage operations in the UK.

“We are putting in place measures to introduce such a suspension, which could be put into effect immediately after exit day if needed. Our expectation, however, is that such a suspension will not be necessary,” he said.

The European Parliament will discuss the EU legislation mid-week and the final text should be agreed by the end of this week.

RHA policy director Duncan Buchanan said: “There is a chance that a reciprocal deal will come about and that ECMT permits will only be needed for trucks entering non-EU countries like Switzerland and Montenegro.

“I think it will take a monumental failing, even by Brexit standards, for ECMT permits to become a requirement, but we are still advising our members to apply for ECMT permits as we don’t know the final outcome and that is the real crisis - that this is happening so late in the day.

"There has been so much politicking on all sides, which has been childish beyond compare. Politicians have spent years posturing when they should have been addressing these issues months ago.”

A DfT spokeswoman said: “The government continues to work towards a deal and we are confident of securing a relationship with the EU which maintains the current, liberalised access we enjoy.

“This is very much in the interest of the EU as well as the UK. We are confident that hauliers should not need an ECMT permit to continue operating in the EU.

“The commission has already put forward proposals which would ensure hauliers continue carrying goods into the EU for in the event of no deal but we will continue to work on all possible contingency measures.”

In a statement DfT added: “Even in the unlikely event of not reaching any kind of deal with the EU, we are confident that existing bilateral agreements with individual Member States will automatically come back into force.”

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