EU hauliers are contemplating bypassing the UK if there are border delays from the start of next year.
Rules for trade between the UK and EU are due to change from 1 January 2021 when the current transition period finishes, including new requirements for traders to complete declarations.
With five mile queues in Kent this week leading to six-hour delays, following systems testing from French customs authorities in Calais, The Grocer have reported that drivers would be unwilling to return to the UK until the congestion has eased.
“Nobody wants to come, nobody,” said Geb Boito, director at Bucci Freight Services. “It’s a nightmare at the moment.”
Haulier rates are also rocketing, with some hauliers demanding fees of up to €7,000 – compared to €2,000 normally – to bring goods from Northern Italy to London.
“No sensible haulier is honouring previous transport agreements through this period,” said Jack Fleming, founder of Chill-Chain, a cold chain logistics platform. “They would either say they’re not doing it, or they will do it but on these different terms based on how long it will take.”
The news comes as French fishermen threaten a blockade of Calais port if they are excluded from UK waters in a no deal outcome, Lloyd’s Loading List reports.
Dimitri Rogoff, president of a trade body for Normandy fishermen, told French radio station France Info this week: “If we are deprived of our fishing grounds, we are not going to watch the British supply the French market. So, there will be blockade at the ferries. We are unequivocal and determined on this point.”
His comments followed an announcement by the British government that it was ready to deploy Royal Navy ships to patrol UK coastal waters in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The ships would have the power to stop, board and impound any EU-flagged fishing trawler operating within the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
Meanwhile, the Road Haulage Association is again warning of ‘chaos’ at the UK borders, accusing the government of leaving the launches of key IT systems for post-transition border controls to the last minute, again in Lloyd's Loading List.
RHA managing director of policy, Rod McKenzie said most of the industry wouldn’t get a chance to look at the Goods Vehicle Movement Service – the border control information technology system for coordinating vehicles – until 23 December.
“We’re not optimistic for 1 January and have been saying for an awfully long time now that we don’t have faith in how the government has gone about handling the situation,” he said.
The RHA is calling for an implementation period giving hauliers time to adapt to the changes.
Despite the fact that the UK will not implement full borders procedures until July 2021 for imports from the EU, McKenzie said there was anecdotal evidence that European drivers were worried about being delayed in the UK.
“With EU nationality drivers probably accounting for anything between 60% and 80% of the pool of truck drivers operating on routes to and from the UK, a growing reluctance on their part to cross the Channel would have serious implications for the country’s import and export trade,” he added.