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Labour force a key concern for transport industry in Brexit negotiations

Words: Laura Edgar
Road construction / Shutterstock_661631752

The labour force and the aviation single market are among a number of key concerns for the transport industry as the UK negotiates Brexit.

Think tank Independent Transport Commission’s (ITC) report How Will Leaving the EU Affect EU Transport? Key Issues considers the concerns the British transport industry has arising from the vote to leave the European Union.

It includes feedback received from an ITC consultation with the transport industry, including responses on aviation, bus, maritime, rail, and road transport interests.

The dependence of the transport industry on EU labour is a critical concern. The report suggests that access to the EU labour force should be maintained in the short term while STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subject training and research collaboration should be invested in over the longer term to address skills shortages.

“Frictionless trade” should also be considered. “The time sensitivity inherent to modern UK logistics and supply chain process is of significant economic importance,” it says, so customs clearance and passenger entry mechanisms from the EU to the UK should be as “seamless as possible”.

The report also recommends that a new Land Transport Agreement with the EU should be negotiated “as a matter of priority” and striking an agreement between the EU and the UK on the aviation single market that retains the existing benefits is urgent.

Funding and financing benefits, including European Investment Bank funding, should be retained or replaced as soon as practicable, and the UK should have continued participation in the development of regulatory standards, notes the report.

"Given transport’s essential role in supporting the UK economy, the ITC stresses that transport issues are given the highest priority by the government in its negotiations with the EU," said Dr Matthew Niblett, director of the ITC.

He welcomed the establishment of the EU Exit Business Advisory Group (EEBAG) by the government.

“But given the scale of the transport sector’s contribution to the UK economy and the connectivity it provides to underpin virtually every other industry, as well as the lives of millions of people in the UK, we call for a transport seat at the fortnightly EEBAG table.”

He said the industry’s voice must be heard to ensure that the UK achieves an outcome that creates a minimum of disruption. At the very least, he continued, it would be advisable to consult regularly with senior representatives from a cross-section of transport industry groups to ensure that all voices and modes of travel are represented.

Niblett said the long time frames involved in transport infrastructure, operations and planning require certainty on future arrangements at an early stage in the negotiations. “If this cannot be guaranteed, a transitional arrangement should be explored to help prevent disruption.”

The ITC said it would be sharing the report with the Department for Exiting the European Union, HM Treasury, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Department for Transport.

How Will Leaving the EU Affect EU Transport? Key Issues can be found on the ITC website (pdf).

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