Half of drivers (46%) are very concerned about how Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) may affect their motoring, according to an AA Populus poll of almost 20,000 drivers.
The concerns ranged from higher fuel prices to re-introduction of duty free allowances and topically more delays at border crossings. Those concerns may well have been considerably higher if the poll had taken place after the channel crossing chaos this last weekend.
In total 82% were either very concerned (46%) or fairly concerned (36%) about at least one of the issues listed below.
The top concerns were:
1. Higher fuel prices - 63% (concerned) 16% (unconcerned)
2. Higher insurance - 57% (concerned) 19% (unconcerned)
3. Poor Euro exchange rates - 56% (concerned) 20% (unconcerned)
4. Cost of EU medical care - 55% (concerned) 22% (unconcerned)
5. Higher travel costs abroad - 50% (concerned) 23% (unconcerned)
6. Cars more expensive to buy - 45% (concerned) 25% (unconcerned)
7. More time at border crossings - 39% (concerned) 34% (unconcerned)
8. Bureaucracy driving in EU countries - 38% (concerned) 27% (unconcerned)
9. Access to breakdown assistance in EU - 31% (concerned) 31% (unconcerned)
10. Have to change EU licence and passport - 29% (concerned) 35% (unconcerned)
11. Having to keep car longer - 15% (concerned) 38% (unconcerned)
12. Duty free limits - 15% (concerned) 44% (unconcerned)
The uncertainty over the effects of leaving the European Union have clearly spread to the world of motoring. The concerns can be split into those perceived as leading to higher costs and those linked to more hassle of travelling through Europe.
Young drivers and those from Wales and Northern Ireland were most concerned about higher insurance costs. 18-24 year olds were also more likely to be concerned or very concerned at the prospect of higher fuel prices.
Drivers in Northern Ireland were much more likely to be concerned about stricter or more time consuming border controls, which is perhaps not surprising due to the frequency with which residents cross what will become the EU border into the Republic.
In fact, perhaps reflecting voting intentions, younger drivers expressed more concern across the board with potential effects of leaving the EU with the exception of possibly having to keep their car for longer.
AA president Edmund King said: “The AA did not take a stance on Brexit as we felt it was up to our members to make up their own minds. However, this AA Populus poll of 20,000 drivers so soon after the referendum shows that many drivers are concerned about the potential for higher costs or more hassle travelling in Europe.
“Last weekend, thousands of drivers experienced horrific delays at Dover mainly due to lack of staff at French border and passport control.”
Drivers’ queued for up to 14 hours on Kent’s roads as they attempted to clear additional French security checks at the Port and board ferries bound for France.
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has said that now is the ideal opportunity to consider the feasibility of the proposed lorry area near Stanford being made available for tourist traffic if needed in order to keep the M20 moving.
FTA head of policy for south east England Natalie Chapman said: “We do need to solve the root causes of congestion and delays at the Port.
“Given the recent terrorist attack in Nice, FTA fully understands the need for heightened security and additional checks, but it is unforgiveable that the French border force was so under-resourced.
“Dover is vital to the UK economy with up to £120 billion worth of trade going through the Port every year. There must be better processes put in place at the Port with extra personnel drafted in at peak times - otherwise there is a risk that Operation Stack may be introduced and we cannot have a repeat performance of last year.”
Highways England is due to be consulting on the details for the design and operation of the new site adjacent to the M20 to alleviate Operation Stack for lorry drivers in the coming weeks.
Chapman continued: “FTA believes that now is a good time to look at all possible scenarios and offers an opportunity to consider the feasibility of the site being made available for tourist traffic if we had a similar situation in the future.”
The main objectives of the proposed lorry area has to be to keep the M20 running and Kent open for business. The Stanford site would provide basic welfare facilities for professional drivers, but if this can be translated to tourist traffic in a workable way, it would help meet those objectives too.
Chapman said: “The site at Stanford will accommodate up to 3,600 lorries which is stages one and two of Operation Stack, but it could hold many more cars. However, we would need to ensure that tourist and freight traffic are separated. The peak days for tourist and freight traffic are different - with tourists heading to the continent across weekends and lorries leaving the UK mid-week."
Kent Police has warned that disruption could last for weeks, as the summer getaway continues.
Edmund concluded: “We trust that our Brexit negotiators will be working hard to ensure that UK drivers can still enjoy safe and relatively hassle-free driving across Europe in the future. However, last weekend’s channel crossing chaos shows that procedures already need to be improved even before any official Brexit. ”