Chris Grayling accused of trying to ‘silence’ hauliers over no-deal Brexit

Lorries pass the Brexit-inspired mural by artist Banksy in Dover

Lorries pass the Brexit-inspired mural by artist Banksy in Dover - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Hauliers have accused the transport secretary Chris Grayling of trying to 'silence' them over their concerns about a no-deal Brexit, a BBC Panorama documentary reveals.

The Road Haulage Association, the trade body representing freight companies, told the BBC that Grayling threatened to stop involving the organisation after they communicated with the press following a private briefing with the Transport Secretary last August.

In the documentary, Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, said Grayling left him a voicemail after the association issued a press release about the meeting.

In the voicemail message, Grayling said: "I've got to say how very disappointed I am.

"I had intended to involve you closely in the planning over the next few months, but issuing a press release straight after meeting like that makes it much more difficult for me to do that."

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Burnett said he felt Grayling was "trying to silence an industry that's trying to help Government guide them".

He added: "My sense of that message was - either shut up or you don't engage.

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"You either play ball with us or you won't be part of the negotiations on behalf of the industry."

The Road Haulage Association has acknowledged that discussions with the government have continued after the voicemail message was sent.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "The RHA has been heavily involved in our EU exit preparatory work and we will continue to involve them at every stage of our planning.

MORE: AC Grayling: Road hauliers have it in their gift to save our country

"It is extremely unfortunate when details of private conversations held in confidence are made public in a press release."

The documentary will also feature an interview with the former permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union, Philip Rycroft, who told the BBC that a no-deal Brexit is something the public should be "worried" about.

Rycroft said: "I think everybody should be worried about what happens in a no-deal situation. We would be taking a step into the unknown."

He added: "It's not in the UK's interest to have no-deal, it's not in the EU's interest to have a no-deal.

"The rational outcome over the next few months is to get a deal because that is overwhelmingly in the economic interest of both the EU and the UK."

Rycroft was in charge of Brexit planning for 18 months before stepping down just before the March Brexit deadline.

He said there are around "16,000 civil servants whose jobs are dedicated to Brexit-related issues", in what he calls "an unprecedented situation" and "the biggest exercise across government we've seen over the last few decades".

He added: "The planning I think is in good shape, absolutely... but of course what that doesn't mean is that there won't be an impact from Brexit, and particularly a no-deal Brexit, because that is a very major change and it would be a very abrupt change to our major trading relationship."

The BBC Panorama programme No-Deal Brexit: Are We Ready? is set to air on BBC One at 8.30pm.

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