International Operations in the Post-Brexit Age

By guest blogger Chris Butterfield

Bus expert Chris was and still is a bus driver who became a transport solicitor and lecturer before his retirement

Television pictures of hundreds of trucks parked in Kent because they could not get into France in time for Christmas did not paint a rosy picture of the prospects for the first days of trade between the UK and the EU after Brexit. But the mandarins were not idle during the four and a half years since the referendum. You can see that if you read what is called the ‘Trade and Co-operation Agreement’ between the UK and the EU: it runs to a hefty 1246 pages.

It starts with a heart-warming paragraph about the general intent of the agreement, saying ‘This Agreement establishes the basis for a broad relationship between the Parties, within an area of prosperity and good neighbourliness characterised by close and peaceful relations based on cooperation, respectful of the Parties’ autonomy and sovereignty’. Isn’t that nice? But it then goes into detail about who will implement the agreement, before setting out the rules to be observed.

There is to be a Partnership Council to ‘supervise and facilitate the implementation and application of the Agreement’. There will be no less than nineteen Specialised Committees, including (fifteenth in the list) a Specialised Committee on Road Transport. They will provide a forum for discussion and review the implementation of the Agreement. It is promised that there will be consultation with domestic advisory groups, which we must presume will include organisations like the RHA, Logistics UK and CPT.

After those ‘preliminaries’, (running to seventeen pages), the Agreement gets down to business, describing first how trade will be conducted. It is under this heading that we find the basic rules for international road haulage and passenger transport.

This part of the Agreement incorporates the general principles of international operations, to include rules on cabotage, and the requirements to be satisfied by operators. Curiously, the requirements for goods operators are spelt out in much more detail than those for passenger vehicles. An operator’s licence must be held, a certified copy must be carried on board, and drivers must have a valid Driver CPC.

For passenger vehicles, there is a requirement to carry a copy of the operator’s licence, (so by implication one must be held), but there is no express requirement. There are pages on the need for authorisation of any international journey and the paperwork that must be carried for this.

For much of the detail we have to turn to the Annexes towards the end of the Agreement. Once again road haulage is dealt with at much greater length than passenger transport. Annex Road-1 for road haulage runs to no less than 85 pages. These contain all the requirements with which we are familiar: financial standing, good repute, minimum training requirements for both drivers and transport managers. And not only are drivers required to observe the hours requirements and use tachographs, but the relevant regulations are spelt out word by word. In fact, they are quite a useful resource, as they contain all the latest amendments, such as the concession allowing drivers (under strict conditions) to exceed permitted hours in order to get back to base – which was introduced on 20 August last year. There is even an appendix setting out the maximum dimensions and weights.

By comparison, the annexes for passenger transport are very much shorter. They deal with the documentation that will be required to operate international services, but that is all. The green waybill to which operators have become accustomed will remain, and there is a complete specimen of it. But nothing about drivers’ hours, tachograph use, training requirements and so forth. Against the 85 pages for haulage, there are a mere 8 for passenger transport. And these are devoted to the documentation required. One reason for the different emphasis might be that first and foremost this Agreement is about trade, in which trucks play a much bigger part than coaches.

Coach operators may at first reading rejoice that they have less to read than haulage companies and may jump to the conclusion that they will have less to worry about. But when running abroad in the EU there must still be the same level of compliance with regulations governing working time, tachographs, driver qualification and so on. Perhaps coach operators are in fact a little worse off, in that they do not have just the one place they can now go to read the law governing their international operations.

The full 'Trade and Co-operation Agreement' between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community of the one part, and the UK and NI of the other can be found here:


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