It’s been particularly difficult to write this article so close to the Brexit deadline, as government information seems to change with the wind. There’s still no answer as to whether we have a hard or soft Brexit at the time of writing – less than 6 weeks out from the March 29th deadline – although my hope is that by the time of reading that will have changed.

The haulage industry does not only directly affect those who are employed within it, as we know, but also those working in any peripheral industry: agriculture, retail, manufacturing. Beyond all of this, the effects are passed on even further and the indirect impacts are felt all the way to the consumer. Time, costs and product availability are all effected, regardless of whether you believe you rely on international imports or not.

Each year, Welsh ports handle over 56.4 million tonnes of UK freight, equivalent to 11 per cent of total UK trade by volume. Holyhead in North Wales is the second-busiest port in the UK (including passenger traffic), and 99.63% of all freight handled through the port is ro-ro meaning road haulage is a huge part of Welsh trade.

November 2018 saw an enquiry held by the Welsh Government, during which they called a number of witnesses from key trade associations to discuss the needs of the freight and logistics industry in Wales in light of Britain exiting the European Union.  Representatives from the Road Haulage Association (RHA), Freight Transport Association (FTA) and the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) met with the Welsh Affairs Committee to discuss Brexit’s trade and customs implications for Wales.

There was a general consensus among those in attendance of the Committee that ‘frictionless trade’ would be the best way to move forward – meaning that the UK remains part of the EU Customs Union, and there are no additional checks required on goods moving between any part of the British Isles and the EU (containing the Republic of Ireland). This is where the ‘whether you believe you’ll be affected or not’ clause comes in. Because, currently, that doesn’t look to be a possibility. 

The vast majority of road haulage In Wales is domestic, moving on to Scotland, England and so on. International road haulage is a smaller sect of the distribution of freight within the UK, and you would imagine that it is international freight which will suffer more problems after Brexit. Yet, there will be issues caused to both international and domestic freight once the UK leaves the EU, so nobody can remain complacent. 

During November’s committee, Duncan Buchanan, Policy Director for the Road Haulage Association, explained:
  What happens with the international [freight imports] is that it comes into warehouses, gets broken down and ends up in our domestic system. The idea that the domestic haulage operators are not going to be impacted is not true because it will ripple right throughout supply chains. 

One more specific example which was raised during the committee was the importing and exporting of poultry. The UK and Ireland consume a vast amount of poultry: an estimated 2.2 million chickens are eaten in the UK per day, with poultry accounting for 42% of meat in our diets. Any meat which enters the food chain is subject to rigorous checks to ensure it is fit for human consumption, yet standards could be affected once the UK becomes a stand-alone entity. Currently, the only Port route between Ireland and the UK which is set up to handle Agricultural Customs Checks is Holyhead-Dublin, and there are no current efforts to extend these services to other Welsh or Irish ports. One of the obstacles is that we don’t yet know for certain whether the government is intending to change current legislation on quality at all, and there’s also the question as to whether there will be a need for additional import/export checks on poultry flowing between the UK and Ireland. With the sheer volume which is moved each day, week and month, poultry alone has the potential to grind an entire port to a halt – not ideal, considering that 70% of cargo from Ireland which is destined for the UK passes through Welsh ports. Add to this the time-sensitive nature of the product, and it’s easy to see why concerns are being raised.

As if this wasn’t complex enough, another of the concerns which was raised during the Welsh committee meeting was that there is no indication of how many lorries on their way to Ireland may be picking up in either Wales or Northern parts of England upon their way through. There’s currently no need to track this kind of haulage, but this ‘free movement’ will not be possible post-Brexit, and nobody knows how this will impact freight movement.

There are some positive steps being taken. The Welsh Government have drawn up contingency plans to handle the overflow of traffic from Holyhead port after Britain leaves the EU. The decision has been made to use land in Anglesea as temporary parking for lorries in the case of above-capacity traffic. There are some 600 spaces available for lorries at Holyhead port, and a further 200 spaces being made available in Anglesey. If these spaces are exhausted, the sector may have to look towards utilising private plots.

At the time of writing, MPs are expected to reject Theresa May’s current Brexit deal. Mrs May has advised that she believes that the country is more likely to completely reject Brexit than to complete a ‘no-deal’ scenario. 

I’ll end this article with just one more summarising quote from the ‘Brexit, trade and customs’ meeting:

This is not just the Welsh economy. This is economies everywhere. We provide the necessary links between businesses. We provide the goods that end up in your supermarket. We link your farmers to the factories that make the food, that make the flapjacks, and we move these bottles of water. We move the bottles; we move the caps; we move the desks; we move absolutely everything. If it was not for road haulage, there would be no industry.  

Duncan Buchanan, Policy Director, Road Haulage Association

Sarah O’Connell, Senior Editor, FORWARDER magazine 

It’s been particularly difficult to write this article so close to the Brexit deadline, as government information seems to change with the wind. There’s still no answer as to whether we have a hard or soft Brexit at the time of writing – less than 6 weeks out from the March 29th deadline – although my hope is that by the time of reading that will have changed.

The haulage industry does not only directly affect those who are employed within it, as we know, but also those working in any peripheral industry: agriculture, retail, manufacturing. Beyond all of this, the effects are passed on even further and the indirect impacts are felt all the way to the consumer. Time, costs and product availability are all effected, regardless of whether you believe you rely on international imports or not.

Each year, Welsh ports handle over 56.4 million tonnes of UK freight, equivalent to 11 per cent of total UK trade by volume. Holyhead in North Wales is the second-busiest port in the UK (including passenger traffic), and 99.63% of all freight handled through the port is ro-ro meaning road haulage is a huge part of Welsh trade.

November 2018 saw an enquiry held by the Welsh Government, during which they called a number of witnesses from key trade associations to discuss the needs of the freight and logistics industry in Wales in light of Britain exiting the European Union.  Representatives from the Road Haulage Association (RHA), Freight Transport Association (FTA) and the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) met with the Welsh Affairs Committee to discuss Brexit’s trade and customs implications for Wales.

There was a general consensus among those in attendance of the Committee that ‘frictionless trade’ would be the best way to move forward – meaning that the UK remains part of the EU Customs Union, and there are no additional checks required on goods moving between any part of the British Isles and the EU (containing the Republic of Ireland). This is where the ‘whether you believe you’ll be affected or not’ clause comes in. Because, currently, that doesn’t look to be a possibility.

The vast majority of road haulage In Wales is domestic, moving on to Scotland, England and so on. International road haulage is a smaller sect of the distribution of freight within the UK, and you would imagine that it is international freight which will suffer more problems after Brexit. Yet, there will be issues caused to both international and domestic freight once the UK leaves the EU, so nobody can remain complacent.

During November’s committee, Duncan Buchanan, Policy Director for the Road Haulage Association, explained:
What happens with the international [freight imports] is that it comes into warehouses, gets broken down and ends up in our domestic system. The idea that the domestic haulage operators are not going to be impacted is not true because it will ripple right throughout supply chains.

One more specific example which was raised during the committee was the importing and exporting of poultry. The UK and Ireland consume a vast amount of poultry: an estimated 2.2 million chickens are eaten in the UK per day, with poultry accounting for 42% of meat in our diets. Any meat which enters the food chain is subject to rigorous checks to ensure it is fit for human consumption, yet standards could be affected once the UK becomes a stand-alone entity. Currently, the only Port route between Ireland and the UK which is set up to handle Agricultural Customs Checks is Holyhead-Dublin, and there are no current efforts to extend these services to other Welsh or Irish ports. One of the obstacles is that we don’t yet know for certain whether the government is intending to change current legislation on quality at all, and there’s also the question as to whether there will be a need for additional import/export checks on poultry flowing between the UK and Ireland. With the sheer volume which is moved each day, week and month, poultry alone has the potential to grind an entire port to a halt – not ideal, considering that 70% of cargo from Ireland which is destined for the UK passes through Welsh ports. Add to this the time-sensitive nature of the product, and it’s easy to see why concerns are being raised.

As if this wasn’t complex enough, another of the concerns which was raised during the Welsh committee meeting was that there is no indication of how many lorries on their way to Ireland may be picking up in either Wales or Northern parts of England upon their way through. There’s currently no need to track this kind of haulage, but this ‘free movement’ will not be possible post-Brexit, and nobody knows how this will impact freight movement.

There are some positive steps being taken. The Welsh Government have drawn up contingency plans to handle the overflow of traffic from Holyhead port after Britain leaves the EU. The decision has been made to use land in Anglesea as temporary parking for lorries in the case of above-capacity traffic. There are some 600 spaces available for lorries at Holyhead port, and a further 200 spaces being made available in Anglesey. If these spaces are exhausted, the sector may have to look towards utilising private plots.

At the time of writing, MPs are expected to reject Theresa May’s current Brexit deal. Mrs May has advised that she believes that the country is more likely to completely reject Brexit than to complete a ‘no-deal’ scenario.

I’ll end this article with just one more summarising quote from the ‘Brexit, trade and customs’ meeting:

This is not just the Welsh economy. This is economies everywhere. We provide the necessary links between businesses. We provide the goods that end up in your supermarket. We link your farmers to the factories that make the food, that make the flapjacks, and we move these bottles of water. We move the bottles; we move the caps; we move the desks; we move absolutely everything. If it was not for road haulage, there would be no industry.

Duncan Buchanan, Policy Director, Road Haulage Association

Sarah O’Connell, Senior Editor, FORWARDER magazine