“The customs union means free movement of our goods. It doesn’t mean free movement of our trucks.” The FT visited the Turkish border with Bulgaria to find out what Britain’s lorry drivers can expect after Brexit. In short? Queues.
Today is a good day,” said Ibrahim Kurtukcu, a 42-year trucker who had been waiting 14 hours. “Last week the line was 7km long.” The record is 17km. It can take up to 30 hours to get through to the other side.
This is what trade looks like from outside the EU — mounds of paperwork, hours of waiting, a scrabbling for scarce transport permits and random inspections, all before trucks can enter the borderless trading bloc.
It is a bureaucratic load that negotiators say will be a “huge” point of contention in Brexit talks. The right of lorries to move freely is rarely granted by the bloc to its neighbours — and so far only on the condition of accepting the free movement of persons, something Britain is determined to avoid.
While a free trade deal between Britain and the EU would likely do away with any tariffs, the right for British trucks to drive through, say, France is far from guaranteed post-Brexit.
For the EU, equal access for trucks is bound up more generally with the idea of freedom of movement – and we all know the British government’s view on that.
The line between free movement of goods, services and people is blurry. It is all well and good having the right to sell a product to the other end of the continent, but you still need someone entitled to take it there.
Border control of lorries is just one of the ever-lengthening list of practical issues that barely came up in the referendum campaign, but that must now be addressed by officials in London and Brussels. A bespoke solution to keep Britain trucking is required. The stakes are high: if you do not reach an EU-wide deal, you face the prospect of negotiating 27 separate deals for quotas for British trucks, and of ending up with epic queues at the Channel ports.
A deal will not be easy to find. Driving on other people’s roads is a surprisingly emotive issue in the EU. Germany and Austria were recently at each other’s throats over road tolls. Pay and conditions for truck drivers based in eastern Europe compared to their western European peers is another sore spot. French truckers, meanwhile, are not famed for their diplomacy. There could be gridlock ahead.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @duncanrobinson
Elsewhere in Europe
Russia and the Netherlands The New York Times takes a close look at Russian links of some of those who fought against against the Netherlands ratifying an association agreement between the EU and Ukraine. The idea of Russian electoral manipulation is especially delicate among the Dutch, who made up the majority of the victims of the MH17 attack in Ukraine.
Political popularity Meanwhile, the proliferation of new political parties in the Netherlands, and the dramatic decline in support for the traditional ones, is making the outcome of the country’s March general election especially difficult to call.
Chief Walloon: Ceta done?Not so fast, says Paul Magnette, leader of the Belgian region. “Small reminder: Wallonia will not ratify CETA unless all of our conditions are met.”
Don’t blame the euro …blame the leaders, argues Martin Sandbu in this defence of the maligned currency.
The core mistake in eurozone economic policy was the unwillingness to restructure debts in 2010. Doing so then would have removed uncertainty, alleviated the push for austerity and loosened financial conditions by cleaning up bank balance sheets. If any country had left the euro, this restructuring would have been unavoidable. But it would have been the writedown, not the monetary divorce, that would have produced the result. And so it’s not monetary union, but the irrational sanctification of debt by all its leaders, that is at the root of Greece’s problem.
End of the insurrection “Mark February 23 in your diaries. That is the day that one, or both, of the UK’s political insurgencies will come to a crashing halt.” Two by-elections in the UK could kill off Jeremy Corbyn’s foray into the top of politics and UKIP’s attempt to get more than a toehold in domestic politics, writes Sebastian Payne.
London > Paris “London will not lose out to Paris as a financial centre after Brexit because the French are “less financially minded” and do not possess the expertise found in the UK capital, according to a leading French business executive.” So there. Full story.
Ode to the enemies of the people David Allen Green predicts that the recent attacks on the British judiciary will do little damage to the institution.