Anyone looking for insight into what Brexit holds for the economy of the United Kingdom should definitely not read the Department for Exiting the European Union Sectoral Analyses. Those familiar with road transport industry will find little to further educate the way they run their business, or respond to challenges in the sector.
Report number 33, the ‘Road Haulage and Passenger Transport Sector Report’ avoids any kind of plot twist in its cold open:
“Haulage companies range from large logistics companies through to operators with a single vehicle,“ the Department for Exiting the European Union informs us, adding later, “between the two there are middle-sized players which have often grown from being very small operations.”
Our road-map into the unknown continues: “This has made the sector highly competitive, and profit margins thin, with operators looking to pick up business at marginal cost,” which is nothing, frankly, that regular readers and users of Motortransport.co.uk will not already be acutely aware of.
What is absent is any forecasts as to how the current forecasts for a weaker than expected economy will impact businesses in the sector. In November 2017 the Office for Budget Responsibility cut its March forecast of 7.5% growth in the UK economy over the next five years to 5.7% - resulting in a £20bn deficit in tax revenues for the Treasury.
Furthermore, while the report lists a large number of European directives – such as Directive 2014/45/EU57 (relating to periodic technical inspections) and Directive 1999/62/EC (the so-called Eurovignette Directive) - there is not a single sentence that shows the impact that leaving the European Union will have on the legislative framework under which logistics and haulage businesses trade.
It gets no better in Report number 27: the ‘Post Sector Report’ , which helpfully informs this multi-billion pound sector that “the postal market can be split into two markets: letters and parcels,” and that “the letters market is declining, driven by e-substitution away from letters towards digital forms of communication, whereas the parcels market is growing, driven by online retail”.
When it comes to the future of the market for letter in the UK the report says: “Overall, the cumulative effect of the UK legal and regulatory framework is that the universal service obligation extends beyond that set out under EU law.” So no change their then…
In terms of UK-EU trade the report does note that “over half of the parcels exported from the UK go to the EU”… or actually lifts that from a press release (!) from Metapack linking to its own, far more detailed sector impact report.
What is missing from these much-vaunted pieces of analysis from the Department for Exiting the European Union is any kind of qualitative and quantitative research as to what Brexit will do to the logistics, haulage, post and parcels sectors of the economy.
And that is pretty shameful given the course the government has set the country on.
- Author Christopher Walton is the Editor-in-Chief of Road Group at motortransport.co.uk publisher DVV Media International