The new government bill making provisions for a no-deal trade arrangement when the UK leaves the EU next year is merely a contingency plan, with plans for a trade agreement still firmly on the table, transport secretary Chris Grayling has assured the industry.

The government released its Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill yesterday (7 February), which gives it the power to put a permit place in scheme, which could be necessary to facilitate cross-border trade after Brexit.

But while it puts the legal framework in place, Grayling (pictured) assured operators that reaching an agreement was still government’s intention.

He said: “Our road haulage industry is right at the heart of the £110bn of trade that takes place between the UK and EU every year.

“We believe reaching an agreement to continue the liberal access enjoyed by both sides is in everyone’s interests and remain confident we will do so.

“But I also understand that hauliers are planning for the years ahead and want to have certainty that any future deal can be implemented smoothly – so this Bill ensures we have plans in place if the deal requires a permitting system.”

The FTA said it supports the bill as a “sensible contingency measure” but said it hoped it would never need to be used.

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Deputy chief executive James Hookham said: “Any decision which will enable the frictionless movement of trade to continue between the UK and EU is to be welcomed, and the UK's logistics industry needs reassurance that ‘business as normal’ can continue throughout the negotiations and transition period.”

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said that while he welcomed the bill, the industry still needs clarity on any deals being negotiated as soon as possible so that it can prepare.

He said: “In this case we need to see clear Government commitment that it will seek an agreement that does not impose new permits, quotas or limits on UK international operators.

“The road freight industry needs clarity as soon as possible as regards what is being negotiated.

“We want to see a system where licensed UK and EU operators can undertake international road haulage to, from, and through the UK and EU without any additional burden or cost.”

The Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill also brings in a trailer registration scheme that ensures the UK policy is in line with the Vienna Convention on Road Transport.