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European role still crucial, says BVRLA

Date: 09 January 2018   |   Author: Sean Keywood

The UK's leasing and rental sector will still need to have its voice heard by lawmakers in Brussels, even after the country leaves the EU.

That's the view of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), which says Brexit will continue to be a key topic for the industry as it moves into 2018.

Chief executive Gerry Keaney has said that, as UK laws on issues such as emissions and safety are unlikely to diverge from those of the EU post-Brexit, it is vital that the BVRLA continues to make representations as European regulations are drawn up.

Speaking at the BVRLA's annual parliamentary reception, Keaney said, "Irrespective of whether the UK is in the EU or not, we will continue to be affected by the regulatory environment. 

"If it affects vehicle standards, if it affects CO2 emission levels, if it affects NOx emission levels, if it affects particulate levels, those decisions will continue to be made in terms of Brussels."

Keaney said it was "impossible" to see the UK operating to different standards in these areas after Brexit. 

He said, "Nothing that we have had come out in discussions with the government and government officials is saying there'll be a different standard here, so it's vitally important that we are in there representing our members' interests."

Keaney added that safety standards were another area where the BVRLA felt decisions would still mainly be made and influenced in Brussels.

"Irrespective of what happens with Brexit, we need, on your behalf, to be here in the Houses of Parliament, up the road with UK Government officials, but also need to be representing your interests continually, whether or not we are in the EU, in Brussels, because that's where a lot of these key decisions are going to be made," he said.

Continuing on the subject of Brexit, Keaney said the establishment of a tariff-free trade agreement between the UK and the EU was vital.

He said, "It's very clear from the government's point of view Brexit is Brexit, so we're going to leave the customs union, we're going to leave the single market. That makes it absolutely clear for us; we need a trade agreement which gives us a tariff- free environment going forward. I think that's critical for our members."

Keaney said that if the UK left the EU without a tariff-free agreement, the price of vehicles would go up by about 10%, and the cost of parts by 4.5%.

He continued, "The inevitable consequence of that will be increases in terms of prices you are charging your customers. 

"We'll see a knock-on effect in terms of inflation, a negative effect in terms of productivity in the economy, we're going to see an increase in servicing costs, an increase in insurance costs, so the consequences for our sector of not having a solid trade agreement without tariffs inevitably mean increased costs."

Discussing the UK Government's recent Budget, Keaney said that the absence of a move by the government to bring forward a planned 2% BIK rate for electric vehicles from 2020 was a missed opportunity. "It is, effectively, the nearer we get to it, a deterrent that stops drivers choosing an electric vehicle, which is exactly the wrong behaviour
to encourage."

Keaney also discussed the subject of terrorism, which he said he would never have expected to be discussing 12 months ago, but had come up following high-profile terror attacks using rental vehicles.

He said the BVLRA had held talks with counter-terrorism officials. "I think we are really being welcomed in the right forums," he said.

"They are listening to how we operate, they are very interested in the standard we operate to, and they're very interested in terms of how they can get to a wider accreditation system in terms of rental companies. 

"The BVRLA is in the lead, quite logically, in terms of how we get these decisions going forward, so that individuals understand that when they come to a BVRLA rental operator, they know there are going to be certain standards we operate to, which we think will
deter terrorism."