Trade associations and the UK government have given a qualified welcome to the publication of the EC’s no-deal contingency plan for transport, which appears to address some of the access concerns for international haulage.

The action plan paves the way - as long as the UK government reciprocates - for UK hauliers to continue moving goods to the continent even in the event of a no-deal Brexit next March.

It means the fall-back, just 984 annual European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) permits that would have to be required per UK truck if the UK crashes out of the EU with no deal, will likely not be required next year.

Speaking at today’s (19 December) FTA Getting Logistics Ready for Brexit Conference in London, the association’s deputy chief executive and event chairman James Hookham welcomed the EU publication.

“The ECMT is the only option we have [in the advent of a no-deal and the UK’s Community Licence ending] but each country only has a handful. It’s insufficient.

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“But this morning the EC published a communique suggesting that, as a temporary measure, starting at Brexit and the nine months after may be covered [by the proposals] which would make the ECMT unnecessary next year,” said Hookham, qualifying that Sarah Laouadi, European policy manager, and the FTA team were still looking at the detail.

Despite this, delegates were urged to continue applying for ECMT permits until the close date of the end of this week (21 December) via the Vehicle Operating Licences system and the DfT.

Pauline Bastion, head of European policy and Brexit at the FTA, subsequently said: "Don't get too excited about the EU contingency plan: yes, it would be positive for UK-EU-UK movements, but neither cross-trade (transport between two EU cities), nor cabotage are covered and member states couldn't offer it either."

She added: "The legislative proposal behind the EU plan needs to be approved by the Council (27 remaining member states) and the European Parliament. And easements could be revoked unilaterally at any point. Another reason to consider getting ECMT permits."

Commenting on the publication, RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “This is welcome news as it will reduce the need for ECMT permits in 2019. However, the proposal is conditional on the UK reciprocating.

“This is a logical and practical proposal by the EC. However, the proposal contains several restrictions. It is time limited and the EC has said it retains the right to cancel at any time.”

The RHA added that the commission had ruled out allowing cabotage in the EU; cross-trade will not be allowed, and transit movements are not referenced at all.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling, who recently promised road transport representatives that he was getting a grip on issues such as the ECMT permit shortfall, said: The European Commission’s proposals today are welcome.

“We need to study the detail, but any steps to ensure UK hauliers can continue carrying goods into the EU in the event of a no deal is good news, as is ensuring flights are maintained between the UK and EU immediately after Brexit.”

UPDATE: ECMT deadline has been extended

"The deadline to apply for a European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) permit has now been extended until 11.59 pm on 18 January 2019.

"ECMT permits will allow you to continue operating in the EU after March 2019 in the event of ‘no deal’.

"The duty of a responsible government is to continue to prepare for a range of potential outcomes including a no deal scenario," the DfT said in a statement. 

You can apply for an ECMT permit now.