Tyre and Rubber Recycling is a British produced magazine with an international readership and the magazine has, from issue one, maintained a strong international focus. In this issue’s editorial we are looking a little closer to home, but still with an international view of the subject.
Tyre and Rubber Recycling has avoided becoming embroiled in commenting on the morass of politics that is BREXIT. However, since the BREXIT vote, almost every meeting we have had with our colleagues in Europe has seen the subject raised at least once. People across Europe, and further afield, want to know what is going to happen. We have some news for those enquiring minds. In the Houses of Parliament there are a lot of politicians who have no idea what is going to happen, and in our Civil Service there are a lot of people who have a pretty good idea how things are going to pan out, but they can’t say very much about it. In short, we are all rather much in the dark.
There are those who want to leave the EU who are delirious with joy at this vague concept of regaining their sovereignty – yet few outside the circle that run the country actually have any such thing. Those same people wish to be free of EU laws, yet wish to trade freely with the EU as before – completely unaware that in order to trade with the EU, we have to, largely, comply with EU laws. That point is not biased. It is a fact. It will stand up to scrutiny.
We are a magazine that discusses waste tyre issues. Currently, the UK exports unknown tonnages of tyre derived materials, most of which go through either Amsterdam or Antwerp, two of Europe’s largest ports. Of course, the port authorities don’t care about what gets shipped through their portals, so long as it is legitimate (-ish). Currently shipping waste from the UK into the Netherlands and Belgium is legitimate, and it can also be freely exported from those ports to destinations around the world, where hopefully it will be handled with proper care and disposed of in a legitimate fashion.
So, all is well and good. Until the UK and the EU part company. Now, waste is a long way down anyone’s list of priorities at the moment, so whilst one or two minor civil servants might have something in their in-tray about post BREXIT waste exports to the EU, it is patently not a topic for high level discussion at the moment. Which is a bit of a curate’s egg for the British exporters, or those who export from the UK through EU ports.
It is currently very difficult, if not well-nigh impossible, to legally import goods classified as waste into the EU. Of course, the trade in used tyres and casings is legal, but there will always be questions about end of life tyres, which are classified as waste throughout Europe. So, the first question that arises, is, will UK end of life tyres, which are a waste stream, be permitted to enter Europe post-BREXIT? If they are not permitted, then this is going to complicate the logistics of disposing of end of life tyres – though it could result in additional business for UK-based exporters shipping direct to non-EU markets. It could be that the import of waste will be permitted and a tariff imposed, pushing the cost to the end user up and the value to the source down. That permitting of import may only be on a temporary basis, and all such goods may have to be exported. We don’t know. We won’t know till after BREXIT.
However, we have a live issue between the EU and the UK right now. That is the introduction of an EPR scheme in the Republic of Ireland, that sets a recycling fee differential between the South and the Northern Ireland, which is of course part of the UK’s free market recovery system.
On both sides of the border industry spokespeople are envisaging a chaos worthy of Spike Milligan’s Puckoon, where the border divided villages, families and, in the book, even houses! Retailers in the south, within easy reach of the border, envisage trade moving North where replacing a set of tyres will be cheaper, by at least the price differential of the recycling fee. Tyre and Rubber Recycling is not so sure that when a family saloon in Dublin needs its tyres changed, that it will be worth the owner’s while driving to Northern Ireland to save maybe 10 Euro.
However, anyone trying to work out the tyre sales figures across Ireland would be pretty much confounded as there is no recording of tyres being shipped from mainland UK to Northern Ireland, and the border is porous. It would be a foolish man who suggested that no cross-border trade went on without the tax authorities knowing. That has happened, we are advised, for many years and there is no reason to say that with an open border that it will not continue.
Then there is the potential for traders in the South to take a fee, without registering it with REPAK (the EPR body) and ship the tyres for disposal in the North, creating a disposal issue for the North, and a tax evasion issue for the South.
Again, end of life tyres are but a small sector and well down the list of negotiating priorities, but here, we already have a dilemma developing and there has been no solution to the Irish/ UK border issue.
Now, let’s take a sideways look at what could be happening elsewhere in the UK. Notwithstanding electoral results, Scotland remains in a position where independence is an option. The UK government has clearly stated, time and time again, that it would not allow an open border with an independent Scotland. There would, they have said, be border posts and immigration controls, and customs inspections. The UK could never allow a free movement across an Anglo Scottish border post Scottish independence. That would be an absolutely non-negotiable situation should Scotland join the EU. So, we are clear, the UK, will not allow an open border and free movement between its direct neighbours.
However, in the next breath, Ireland is being told that there will never be a return to the hard border and there will be a guaranteed free movement of Irish citizens between Ireland and the UK. How is the latter possible and the former not?
The reality is that without a hard border of some sort, there will be an open door for EU citizens to enter the UK through Ireland. There will be an open trade door through Ireland into the UK, though perhaps not from the UK through Ireland to the rest of the EU.
We will not dwell on the complications of Scotland, for that game has a long time remaining to play and no-one can be 100 per cent sure of the political outcome post-BREXIT.
Of course, Ireland shares one common asset with the UK, it has no land border with the rest of Europe, so, border control at the points of entry into Ireland can easily be managed. Some British MPs have proposed the idea that the whole immigration/ trade issue with Ireland could be resolved, if only the Irish government allowed British Border Control to operate at Irish points of entry, which exemplifies the arrogance and ignorance of a certain sector of the UK parliament that thinks that the UK should still have sovereign rights over Ireland (see, there is that sovereignty issue again). The Irish parliament was somewhat less than enthusiastic about that idea, didn’t they pay in blood for the freedom they have today?
There are political games afoot that only the wisest and most connected of people have any idea about. The UK is politically as unstable as it ever has been. It is embarking on an escapade that may be the making or breaking of modern Britain. Only time will tell.
So, to all of our readers across Europe and the world, as things stand, when you ask us about BREXIT and how it will impact the tyre recycling sector. We have about as much of an idea as anyone else. That is probably not true. We have all probably given it more thought than the UK BREXIT negotiating team!