The news that Northern Ireland’s (NI) commercial vehicle operators will have unrestricted access to the Republic of Ireland (ROI) in the event of a no-deal Brexit is a promising step forward, according to the Freight Transport Association (FTA), the business organisation which represents the logistics industry, but the lack of clarity on permits for British operators must be addressed to keep trade flowing freely to ROI.
FTA was originally advised NI would only be eligible for approximately 60 ECMT (European Conference of Ministers of Transport) commercial vehicle permits per year, but as Seamus Leheny, FTA’s Northern Ireland Policy Manager explains, this would constitute a massive shortfall: “When you consider more than 4,000 goods vehicles cross the border between NI and ROI daily, the allowance of 60 vehicle permits per year would have inoperably damaged the transport industry and in turn, the businesses who rely on these imported goods and services to operate.
“Thankfully, the NI Department for Infrastructure has confirmed all operators with a NI licence will not be required to obtain an ECMT permit to travel to ROI. While FTA welcome this special status for businesses in Northern Ireland – it will help maintain vital cross border, all-island supply chains in the event of a no-deal Brexit – the ideal scenario would be a UK-wide application.”
Those with a British operator’s license will have to apply for an ECMT permit if they plan to drive in the Republic of Ireland, or elsewhere in the EU, from 29 March 2019. Seamus continues: “British operators will only have access to 1,224 permits per year, which is painfully short of the required total. Without frictionless movement between the UK and EU-27 countries, we can expect to see severe delays which will threaten our complex supply chain. It’s promising to see such progress has made been in NI in regard to vehicle permits, but this must be applied across the UK to prevent the logistics industry, and in turn, the wider UK economy grinding to a halt.”
Efficient logistics is vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods. With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc. A champion and challenger, FTA speaks to Government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers.