Haulage bosses have openly questioned the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s contingency plans for a No Deal Brexit in which he told industry leaders to ‘prepare for the worst’.
During a showdown meeting with hauliers, Mr Grayling said that in the event of no deal scenario the Government’s contingency plan was to create a vast lorry park in Kent to prevent queues in Dover and to make up for the shortfall in goods being driven in and out of Europe by placing British firms in sole charge of internal transportation of goods within the UK.
However, as crucial talks between the UK and the EU resume in Brussels, the transport secretary is accused of citing incorrect information and a lack of knowledge of how goods are transported both in and around the UK.
with one Yorkshire haulage boss saying the plans would put his firm out of business within two weeks.
Kevin Hopper, managing director of Brian Yeardley Continental, an £80m business based in Featherstone in West Yorkshire, was among those who attended the meeting in Westminster.
During the meeting he presented a copy of a European Commission directive on mobility and transport published earlier this year, spelling out the rules if there is a no deal Brexit, which states that UK companies, their vehicles and drivers would not be recognised within member states.
Mr Hopper said the transport secretary and his advisors appeared to have no knowledge of the document or its contents.
Mr Hopper told The Yorkshire Post: “The Secretary of State was surrounded by advisors.
“This is very important, he should be able to provide correct statistics.
“He, along with the Government, is responsible for delivering something which is of vital importance to British businesses and taxpayers.
“I do not want to appear disrespectful but it was clear he either knew nothing about the transport industry or was ill-informed.
“When it comes to import and export of goods between the UK and Europe, the actual amount transport providers from the UK handle is about 12 per cent of traffic, with the remaining 88 per cent coming from foreign vehicles. He quoted a statistic that this figure was 20 per cent.”
Mr Hopper, who has more than 40 years experience in the industry and described himself as “neither for or against Brexit” said Mr Grayling sought to quell concern over the likelihood of Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal but advised them to be ready for such a scenario.
“We were told the same in March and nothing has happened since them,” Mr Hopper said.
“I told him this and he replied ‘what do you want from me?’
“I said we needed clarity to which he said ‘explain clarity’.
“I told him that we were being told to prepare for the worst but we cannot plan for something for which we have no knowledge.”
Mr Hopper started work in the haulage industry at the age of 15 and said the prospect of No Deal was the biggest threat he had seen to his industry in his lifetime.
His family-owned firm specialises in transporting materials such as chemicals and white goods, cargo which is not classified as nonessential goods, unlike foods or medicines, leaving him fearful of the impact of no deal being reached.
“There must be a deal and a deal must be made,” he said.
“I am not scare mongering. I do not pretend to know about politics but I know about transport. I employ 104 people in Featherstone. They are mainly local people. No deal would have a devastating impact on the business but mainly on these people and their families.”
The Government has plans to negotiate bilateral permits with EU member states on an individual basis, something the Road Haulage Association dismissed owing to their only covering a single journey.
“It would be a nightmare,” they told the Daily Telegraph.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We are confident of reaching an agreement with the EU which maintains the same levels of commercial haulage accessibility, ensuring the benefits felt by both sides continue after Brexit.
“The recently passed Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Act will give the Government the power to introduce a permit scheme should this be required.
“Regardless of the outcome of negotiations, we are continuing to work closely with a range of partners on contingency plans to ensure freight can continue to move as freely as possible between the UK and Europe.”