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BREXIT – What if there is no deal? Bus and coach operators and the EU.

In the second of our “BREXIT – what if there is no deal?” series, we look at the implications for bus and coach operators entering mainland Europe, by examining the relevant technical notice published in September 2018 by the DfT which sets out what it plans to put in place.

Introduction

Should the United Kingdom exit the European Union (“EU”) in March 2019, without having negotiated “a deal”, then there are likely to be some barriers faced by bus and coach companies regarding access to the continental market. The purpose of this article is to outline such potential barriers and how operators might be able to prepare their business.

Before 29 March 2019

The date the United Kingdom is due to exit the EU is 29 March 2019. After this date, the UK will no longer be part of the EU, regardless of whether there is a deal in place to manage the relationship or not.

At the moment, however, operators need a Community Licence and Standard International Operator’s Licence to operate on the continent. The drivers for these companies must also carry a Certificate of Professional Competence (“CPC”) when driving in EU countries. Holding these licences allow an operator to run services in the EU and partake in a certain amount of cabotage. This is, unlikely to remain the case after the UK exit the EU.

Currently, the UK also participates in the Interbus Agreement, something that the EU enters into as a whole and thus, by proxy, each individual Member State as well. This agreement allows operators to carry out occasional services within the EU, as well as Albania, Bosnia-Herzgovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Turkey and Ukraine.

Whilst the Interbus Agreement permits occasional services, it does not provide for regular services, nor does it permit any cabotage. It is hoped that after the UK’s exit from the EU, the Interbus Agreement will be extended to cover special and regular services, however this has not taken affect yet, nor is there much information about the progress of these negotiations.

After 29 March 2019

If there is no deal after the UK’s exit then operators could no longer rely on automatic recognition of UK-issued Community Licences. EU countries may recognise that UK-issued operator licences and associated authorisations are based on the same standards as EU Community Licences and not require further authorisations. This would ensure continued passenger movement. However, this is not certain or confirmed.

The UK would no longer be a party to the Interbus Agreement. However, the UK has stated it will apply to re-enter into the agreement as an independent party. Whilst it is said that the UK aims to be a member of this agreement by 29 March 2019, they have stated that there is chance it might be ‘as soon as possible thereafter.’

Operators should be aware that the Government considers the likelihood of the UK failing to enter into the Interbus Agreement by 29 March 2019, or very soon thereafter, to be low. If this does occur for any reason, it would be likely that no UK operators would be able to take coach services into the EU at least in the short term. Comfort can however, be taken from the fact that the Interbus Agreement works both ways and a number of operators based in other EU member states will want continued access to the UK. Therefore, it is in everyone’s interest to ensure the UK are a party to the Interbus Agreement sooner than later.

The Government has stated that should the UK not have entered into the Interbus Agreement before 29 March 2019, they will attempt to make bilateral agreements with Member States to ensure operations continue. There is no definite timeline or deadline quoted stating when the government estimates these will be in place.

Once the Interbus Agreement has been signed, companies operating coaches will be able to drive in the EU for occasional services. This does not mean however that the agreement would be extended to permit regular services within the EU. Also, cabotage would not be permitted under this agreement.

As for the CPC, in a “no-deal” scenario, it is likely that drivers currently holding a UK-issued CPC would need to hold a CPC issued by an EU country.

Conclusion

In order to prepare, operators may want to consider sub-contracting their EU based work. This will involve operators finding third party EU-based operators who they are happy working with.

Operators also need to make sure their terms and conditions permit them to sub-contract part or all of the relevant journeys to other operators. We would advise any UK coach operators who are taking travel bookings requiring coach travel after 29 March 2019 to review their contracts with customers. It may be necessary to vary these contracts to ensure they allow the operator to subcontract all or part of their coach travel work to EU-based operators. We can assist with this if you contact Brett Cooper on 01254 828300.

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