A wide-ranging survey and report by the Independent Transport Commission (ITC) crystallises the core transport industry concerns – people, customs, regulation, finance and funding – while calling on policymakers to champion the UK transport industry in the ongoing EU-UK negotiations.
The think tank occasional paper – "How will leaving the EU affect UK transport? Key issues" – explores the key issues for the British transport industry arising from the UK leaving the European Union (EU), reflecting the feedback received by an ITC consultation with the transport industry.
As the UK government negotiates a new relationship with its European partners, the ITC's report outlines key issues from a survey of aviation, bus, maritime, rail and road transport interests, alongside stressing essential policy outcomes:
- EU labour – the dependence of the transport sector (e.g. haulage, construction) on EU labour means that access to the EU labour force should be maintained in the short term, while investing in STEM subject training and research collaboration over the longer term to address skills shortages.
- "Frictionless" trade – the time sensitivity inherent to modern UK logistics and supply chains means that retaining a seamless supply chain process is of significant economic importance. Customs clearance, as well as passenger entry mechanisms to the UK from the EU, should also be as seamless as possible.
- HGVs – for road haulage it is recommended that a new Land Transport Agreement with the EU is negotiated as a matter of priority.
- Aviation single market – the importance of the European Single Aviation Market for UK aviation operations cannot be underestimated. An agreement between the UK and EU needs to be reached as a matter of urgency that retains the existing benefits.
- Regulatory standards – the UK and EU currently enjoy common standards. Ideally, the UK should have continued participation in the development of these and at a minimum should adopt existing standards. This applies to transport operators as well as to the transport and infrastructure supply industry.
- Funding and financing – benefits should be retained or replaced as soon as practical, including European Investment Bank funding for major infrastructure projects, and EU Horizon research and development funding benefits.
"Given transport's essential role in supporting the UK economy, the ITC stresses that transport issues are given the highest priority by the Government in its negotiations with the EU," commented Dr Matthew Niblett, Director of the ITC, as the second round of EU-UK negotiations began (17 July).
He added: "We welcome the establishment of the EU Exit Business Advisory Group (EEBAG) by the Government. But given the scale of the transport sector's contribution to the UK economy and the connectivity it provides to underpin virtually every other industry, as well as the lives of millions of people in the UK, we call for a transport seat at the fortnightly EEBAG table.
"The voice of the industry must be heard to ensure that the UK achieves an outcome that creates a minimum of disruption. At the very least, it would be advisable to consult regularly with senior representatives from a cross-section of transport industry groups to ensure that all voices and modes of travel are represented."
Adding to a growing body of business opinion, Dr Niblett called on the Government to deliver transition arrangements to avoid a double cliff edge and provide greater certainty for the industry: "The long time frames involved in transport infrastructure, operations and planning require certainty on future arrangements at an early stage in the negotiations. If this cannot be guaranteed, a transitional arrangement should be explored to help prevent disruption."
The ITC will be sharing the report with the Department for Exiting the European Union, HM Treasury, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Department for Transport.