In just over a month’s time the United Kingdom and the European Community will part ways. Whether agreeably or forcibly - that remains to be seen as the charade continues with the British government now more-or-less playing Russian roulette with the issue and creating even more uncertainty in Britain and continued head shacking in Brussels.
Truckers getting worried on ‘no action’
There is a lot at stake when the UK and the EU part ways. One would have hoped by this time that both parties had a suitable divorce arrangement and could part on more-or-less genial terms. It has been clear for the past two months that this will not be the case and many companies on both sides of the channel are now totally uncertain of what will happen (soft or hard Brexit) and the immediate and long-term repercussions they may have to face.
The airline industry and the road feeder services between the Europe and the UK are no exception.
Will chaos reign?
Statistics show that there are around 16,000 daily truck movements between the French port of Calais and the UK port of Dover. In total 10,000 trucks move on cross-channel ferries and the other 6,000 are loaded on the channel tunnel express trains. All these trucks are carrying much needed commodities and spare parts to the UK and vice-versa.
There has been a lot of talk about setting up contingency areas at both Calais and Dover to cope with the expected chaos if the UK forces itself into a “hard Brexit.” Many who would be affected are saying that there has only been talk - but no action and that if the clock stops at midnight on 29 March, that chaos will indeed reign.
Collapse of supply chains feared
Today, trucks operating across the channel have little or no paperwork to complete and here again statistics show that the average time taken to clear customs for most trucks is 3 to 4 minutes. If the whole thing collapses and each and every one is forced to pre-declare goods, face heavy customs checks - then average waiting time (best case) would be 10 to 15 minutes. This might not seem long but would ensure truck backlogs on motorways into Calais and Dover stretching for up to 50 kilometers as well as delayed ferries and trains.
No solution in sight and a lot of hope that the hard Brexit will not happen. However Mrs May seems intent on forcing the issue within her own government in the hope that the EU will give in on the present agreement. A gamble which might come off - but if not, will put us back in the dark ages.
Airlines get seven months on ownership issue
On the other side, the EU has said that after the split it will give European airlines up to seven months to adjust their control and ownership rules. This would mean that by the end of October this year European carriers would have to show that the majority of their stock will remain controlled by EU owners or entities if and when British investor participation ceases. If they do not meet this deadline then they will not necessarily benefit from the EU open sky policy and could lose their European carrier status.
This in essence applies primarily to carriers within the British controlled IAG International Airlines Group and airlines such as Ryanair and easyJet. Ryanair for example is also listed on the UK
stock exchange. Some of these carriers, especially the low-cost operators, have already been able to set up subsidiary companies outside the UK in the hope that this will suffice.
The big problem will be for IAG who is still trying to do a deal with the EU regulators.
Whatever the outcome on March 29th - a lot of work ahead.
John Mc Donagh