British truckers plan for the worst

Birmingham - Transport company boss Chris Blackburn is contemplating spending almost a million pounds for a chance to keep his trucks on European roads if Britain leaves the EU without a deal in March

Birmingham - Transport company boss Chris Blackburn is contemplating spending almost a million pounds for a chance to keep his trucks on European roads if Britain leaves the EU without a deal in March.

Upgrading the emissions standards of his fleet would allow him to compete for the 984 annual European travel permits allocated for British trucks next year. Competition will be fierce. Some 38,000 British trucks routinely drive in the EU and, if there is no Brexit deal, they will only be able to carry on with a permit. Britain’s EU membership meant they have never needed one before.

Even if Blackburn funds the upgrade, there is no guarantee the government will consider his business, moving industrial and construction equipment, important enough to give him permits. Losing access would put a major strain on his 93-year-old family firm, Chambers & Cook, which has annual revenue of around 20 million pounds.

With barely five months to go, Britain has yet to agree exit terms and companies do not know how they will trade with the world’s largest trading bloc. Blackburn’s predicament highlights the uncertainty of an industry which moves around 420 billion pounds ($547 billion) of goods between Britain and Europe each year to support manufacturers, retailers and even musicians.

“No or too few permits would be catastrophic,” the 53-year-old said at his Birmingham base, overlooking the M6 motorway. “It is a gamble. It’s a massive cost.”

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