The Brexit talks are back on in Brussels this week and the two sides — in the absence of any expectation of progress on the key sticking points of state aid and fishing rights — have found something else to argue about: road transport.
The dispute is over the extent of the UK’s access for truckers to the EU’s single market after the transition period expires on December 31. This includes the right to continue to be able to drop off and pick up loads inside EU member states, known as “cabotage”.
This is one of those classic Brexit issues where you might think that “common sense would prevail”, but it is actually an example of where the politics of Brexit overrides the practicalities of managing freight between the EU and the UK.
Going as far back as the 2016 referendum campaign, Brexiters have forecast that the EU’s surplus in goods trade with the UK would mean that EU capitals would tell the European Commission in Brussels to be flexible on these market access issues, but to little avail.
When it comes to cabotage, from the perspective of EU business interests, commission flexibility makes perfect…