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Supermarkets told to stockpile food, ECMT permits issued but fall short of requirements

Although the deadline for a Brexit deal has been extended from Sunday, with reports today that negotiators will 'go the extra mile', it widely presumed that a no-deal is the most likely option.

If no deal is agreed before 31 December then the UK and the EU would begin trading on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms, meaning tariffs would be implemented.

Meanwhile according to the Guardian  supermarkets have been told to stockpile food in anticipation of food shortages. Food producers have warned supplies of fresh vegetables will be worst hit if tariffs were imposed on goods in the event of a no-deal. They say shortages could last for at least three months.

Andrew Opie, the director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Retailers and suppliers are doing everything they can to reduce disruption for consumers, including increasing the stock of non-perishable items and looking at alternative supply routes.

“The main impact [of] Brexit will be on imported fresh produce, such as much fresh fruit and vegetables, which cannot be stored for long periods by either retailers or consumers.”

ECMT Permits issued
Last week there was news for UK road haulage operators, although not necessarily good.

British hauliers applied for permits to work in Europe for thousands of their vehicles yet, as Handy Shipping Guide have detailed previously, less than 1,700 were being allocated by the EU. This effectively means that the bulk of driver accompanied trailers arriving in the UK will be from EU countries. The policy is likely to see a seismic shift from accompanied to unaccompanied trailers.

The ECMT permits allow both vehicles carrying most general freight items, or indeed simply travelling empty throughout the EU to transit freely. The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has repeatedly warned there would not be enough ECMT permits available to meet demand in a no-deal Brexit situation and chief executive Richard Burnett takes up the story:

“There are just 14 working days left until the end of the year and the UK and EU are cutting it desperately fine. The UK haulage industry is, quite literally, resting on a knife edge. If a deal is struck then the need for permits becomes largely redundant. Right now there are just over 1,600 annual permits being allocated to meet applications for over 10,000 lorries That’s not enough and the system cannot last indefinitely.”

EU publishes no-deal transport contingency plans
Last week the European Union published contingency plans likely to offer some short-term reassurance to international hauliers and PSV operators anticipating the end of the Brexit transition period in January, as eleventh-hour trade deal negotiations drag on reports

The plans are designed to ensure that “basic connectivity” for road freight and passenger transport can continue for six months after the transition period ends if no deal is reached, provided that reciprocal arrangements are put in place in the UK for EU operators.

They were published amidst what the European Commission called “significant uncertainty” about whether an overall deal would be achieved. The UK prime minister Boris Johnson also warned yesterday of a “strong possibility” that no deal would be reached.

The UK government has said it will look “very closely” at the proposals, but according to the Road Haulage Association (RHA), has already provided reassurances around a “six-month glidepath” in the event of a no-deal scenario, suggesting that it would likely adopt the necessary reciprocal measures.

Business travellers will need permits
Business travellers will face fines of up to €20,000 (£18,240) if they do not apply for special permits for visits to conferences or exhibitions in the European Union if there is no Brexit deal for the service industry, industry leaders have warned reports

“What you can’t do post-Brexit as a third-country national is simply think that you can get on Eurostar and rock up as you did before when we were a member state of the EU, you can’t just do that,” said Tim Thomas, a consultant with specialist firm International Employment Mobility Consultancy.

Make UK, which represents some of the biggest manufacturers in the UK, said it is concerned that the issue of business travel for service engineers will not only arise in a no-deal scenario but could arise if a trade deal comes home without a full services section.

Service engineers are the army of workers who are called out at short notice to EU factories, offices and industrial sites to fix everything from hospital scanners to lifts and aircraft parts.

“There is a real nervousness about it among our members,” said Ben Fletcher, director of Policy at Make UK. “All the focus is on goods and there is just not enough detail on this to make our members feel comfortable.”

“One firm has told us that in an average month they have about 10,000 people movements … to go and do service-related work across the EU,” he said.