Haulage firms could go out of business “overnight” because of a lack of permits which may be needed in the event of a no-deal Brexit, a trade association has warned.
Applications were made for 11,392 of the licences to enter the EU, with 984 made available.
Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, said the companies that had missed out were “really angry”.
“If you can’t go to Europe and your business is based on going to Europe, you’re out of business overnight,” he told the Press Association.
“What have you got to fall back on?”
The Department for Transport (DfT), which is responsible for distributing the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) permits, said it had secured additional annual and short-term versions.
It was also “confident” that UK hauliers would not actually need the documents to continue operating in the EU.
The DfT noted that the European Commission had proposed that UK firms could continue carrying goods into the EU for nine months in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Existing bilateral agreements with individual EU states would also come into force if there was no arrangement with the bloc as a whole.
Mr Burnett warned that the European Commission’s plan had not yet been ratified by the European Parliament.
He said: “If you’re a haulier that wants to get to Europe, you don’t know how you’re going to do it.
“You have no clarity over the process. At the moment the only guarantee is with ECMT permits.”
Mr Burnett explained that he met Transport Secretary Chris Grayling over a year ago and told him hauliers needed a contingency plan so they could continue to operate if the UK withdrew from the EU without an agreement.
He recalled that Mr Grayling told him “there’s nothing to worry about” and “we’ll get a deal”.
Mr Burnett said: “His track record so far means that we as an industry have no confidence at this stage that we’re going to get what we need. That is really concerning.”
A DfT spokesman said: “The Government continues to work towards a deal which maintains the current, liberalised access we enjoy. This is very much in the interest of the EU as well as the UK.
“We are confident that hauliers should not need an ECMT permit to continue operating in the EU.”