All Party Freight group hears post-Brexit prophecies

The All Party Parliamentary Freight Transport Group of MPs has heard how changes to the way the industry functions in Britain may be slow in coming following the country’s exit from the EU.  The group heard from Ian Jones, a solicitor with long-established transport law firm, Backhouse Jones, that much existing regulation as it relates to safety is likely to stay the same post-Brexit and is unlikely to be watered down. 

For example, AETR rules on tachographs and drivers’ hours are expected to remain unaltered.  Mr Jones said that other systems like Operator licensing, predate EU membership so are also likely to be left as they are.  Whatever change does come, he said, would be very gradual when put into the context of the huge body of law up for review after Brexit.  Mr Jones said the area where the future was least clear was employment law, in particular the Working time Directive and TUPE regulations, which may be subject to eventual review.

The Group also heard from Tony Smith, former head of both the UK and Canadian Border Force operations who took control of border affairs during London 2012 Olympics, and his Accenture colleague, Jim Canham, Global Border Services Managing Director.  Both speakers said investment was needed in Britain’s border control systems, primarily in technology which can both speed up passage and improve the ability to identify potential threats, both criminal and terrorist.  They said the biggest risk post-Brexit is a lack of collaboration and unanimity between EU members when negotiating with Britain which could see the emergence of a mixture of complex rules governing passage to and from individual member states.  They urged the government to appreciate how borders can be dramatically improved with the use of technology and to design processes aimed at meeting the demands of travellers rather than to fit political policy objectives.

Group chair, Stoke-on-Trent South MP, Rob Flello, said, “Listening to today’s speakers brings it home just how much government needs to ensure the details of Brexit are not lost between the cracks of ‘big policy.’  The Department for Transport is already overwhelmed with work relating to HS2 and Heathrow and my biggest fear is that officials just won’t have the time to appreciate the nuances of negotiations with Europe until it’s too late.  It is absolutely vital for the sector to have a very clear view of what it needs from any deal and to make those needs crystal clear to government in good time.  If the right voices aren’t heard now, we could be saddled with changes which damage our freight sector irrevocably.”