16 January 2019 by Elizabeth Slow

Waste sector seeks clarity following Brexit deal vote

Waste and resources industry figures have reacted to the vote against the government’s Brexit deal in Parliament yesterday (15 Janaury), with the prospect of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit continuing to cause concern.

Yesterday’s vote in the House of Commons against Theresa May’s deal leaves a range of potential outcomes on the table, including the possibility of the UK leaving the EU without a deal on March 29 – which is seen as being likely to have the biggest short-term impact on waste businesses.

Environmental laws will be among those brought into UK statute under the Great Repeal Bill

Logistics

Among those to react to yesterday’s Commons vote was Environmental Services Association (ESA) chairman Phil Piddington, who explained that logistics could be one of the big challenges for the waste industry in the event that ‘no-deal’ is reached.

Speaking to letsrecycle.com, Mr Piddington, who is also managing director of Viridor, said: “I think the immediate impact is definitely going to be on flows of vehicles and that will impact flows of waste in the South East.

“If we end up without a deal and we end up with confusion, the issue there is that while all of that works its way through there will be uncertainty and so the market will have to adjust.”


ESA chairman Phil Piddington offers his view on the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit

And, expanding on the factors which could impact the sector, Mr Piddington explained: “It will take longer to transport things, there’s likely to be congestion around the South East so people will have to look at what they do there, it will probably require local authorities and planners to be more flexible on receiving times for waste for example, and probably a bigger burden on administration if you’re exporting.”

Last week, Defra held a meeting with the waste industry on the potential impact of a ‘no-deal’ scenario on waste exports (see letsrecycle.com story).

RDF

Concerns had previously been shared by RDF exporters about delays at ports, stockpiling and the potential for waste being redirected to landfill.

In light of the recent developments, Harriet Parke, secretariat of the RDF Industry Group, said: “Following the rejection of Theresa May’s Brexit deal, the risk of a no-deal Brexit remains, and the RDF Industry Group will continue to work with the regulators and government departments to prepare for this scenario.

“Progress has been made regarding TFS notifications, meaning this is no longer a significant concern. However, the process by which customs will ensure no delays at the border is still unclear. There is still work to be done to avoid disruption to the supply chain, and to ensure continuity of exports.”

‘Uncertainty’

Meanwhile, Simon Ellin chief executive of the Recycling Association expressed concern over the lack of certainty over Brexit, which he described as “one huge unknown”.

Mr Ellin explained that any interruptions to exports in the event of a no-deal Brexit could cause “downward pressure on commodity prices”.

“How do we plan? Given that level of uncertainty where do we get our consistency for approach?”

“We just need somebody somewhere to make a decision so we can plan for it,” Mr Ellin said. “With so much uncertainty in world markets we don’t have that certainty to invest.”

‘Increased volatility’

“In the longer term, a ‘no deal’ is likely to have a range of economic and operational impacts, with increased volatility in foreign exchange and secondary materials markets, and potential labour and skills shortages, likely to be areas of particular concern.”


Pat Jennings
CIWM

Aside from the short-term impacts of a no-deal situation such as disruption to exports, Pat Jennings, head of policy and communications at CIWM warned of volatility in secondary markets for materials.

“Defra and relevant national governments, departments and agencies have been working hard to ensure minimum regulatory disruption in the event of a ‘no deal’ and have been liaising with sector stakeholders and organisations including CIWM,” she said.

“In the longer term, a ‘no deal’ is likely to have a range of economic and operational impacts, with increased volatility in foreign exchange and secondary materials markets, and potential labour and skills shortages, likely to be areas of particular concern.”

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