Haulage bosses slam UK government for failure to produce Brexit handbook

The UK’s haulage and logistics groups have lambasted the government for failing to produce a handbook to help truck drivers prepare for new border controls that will come into force from January 1. With less than 35 working days until a new EU-UK trade regime comes into force, officials at the Department for Transport are rushing to rewrite early drafts of a handbook that were rejected as “unusable”. Elizabeth de Jong, the policy director of Logistics UK, which represents the freight industry, told MPs on Wednesday the original version was “not fit for purpose” since it failed to answer the basic question “what documentation and checks do I need for my journey?”.

In a letter to Michael Gove, the cabinet office minister in charge of implementing the new borders after Brexit, Ms De Jong complained of “significant delays” in producing the handbook.  A new draft is due on November 18 and the final version is not expected to be delivered until December 7 — less than four weeks before the end of the transition period. It will need to be translated into multiple languages, since 80 per cent of cross-channel lorry journeys are made by EU drivers.

“It is later than we’d want it to be and [government] officials working on it know that it is later than they would have wanted it to be,” Ms De Jong told a parliamentary select committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union. An early draft version of the handbook seen by the Financial Times consists of 22 pages of at times densely worded prose that haulage groups have said were completely unsuited to apprising lorry drivers of their new responsibilities. One sentence read: “If the trader arranges for the goods to move under the CTC the driver must be given . . . a TAD from the trader, and be told by the trader that the movement has been released to the transit procedure and that they can proceed to the place of exit from EU member state.”

Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, said he had been left “speechless” by the failure to produce a workable guide of the kind that previous governments had produced for no-deal Brexit contingency planning.  He added that the failure was symptomatic of Whitehall overload caused by Covid-19 and Brexit. “It’s like there is a fog in every government department. There are so many questions being asked, that nobody can keep on top of all these things that are being raised.”

The DfT said that the handbook was “only one part” of a package of measures to guide hauliers and would be launched alongside 45 new information sites later this month. “We are progressing work on the handbook at pace,” a spokesperson added.