BRADFORD hauliers face “chaos” if a no-deal Brexit leaves the UK without a transitional deal allowing goods to be transported to the Continent, an expert says.

Haulage companies are being urged to apply for permits to allow them to continue carrying goods into the EU after Brexit if there is no deal by March 29, 2019.

But the Department for Transport only has 984 of these European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) annual permits and the Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimates that there will be demand for 20,000.

A Government spokesperson said the deal negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May would protect hauliers' access between the UK and European Union.

Duncan Buchanan, RHA policy director for England and Wales, said: “People are starting to seriously panic.

“For someone planning ahead, no-one knows where they are because they can’t commit to next year.

“It’s absolutely essential we need a transitional period when people can prepare and continue without disruption.

“Politicians need to realise that there are 77 working days to go and we don’t know what the customs arrangements are.

“If we have no deal, we still need a transitional period. We need an alternative in place if they throw Theresa May’s deal out.

“It will be chaos if we don’t.”

He said the estimate of 20,000 firms needing the international permits was only a ‘back of the envelope’ calculation because no-one has had to measure the demand before now.

The RHA is urging companies to take part in the application process but they will need to get their vehicles through a qualifying threshold. If there are not enough permits to go around, they will then be allocated on a lottery basis.

Mr Buchanan said that five-year-old Euro 5 class vehicles will not be eligible and also he was concerned about operators of older specialised vehicles which also will not be covered the scheme.

He added that most of the haulage businesses are small and just deal with domestic business but they will also be affected if there is a no-deal Brexit because international trade feeds goods through to them.

Vehicles under 3.5 tonnes (including vans) and drivers carrying their own goods do not need an international operator’s licence.

A spokesperson for the Department for Exiting the European Union said: "The deal negotiated by the Government will protect UK and EU hauliers' access to each other’s markets on similar terms.

“In the unlikely event that we leave the EU with no deal, we will work with member states to put in place appropriate bilateral arrangements.

"Many old bilateral agreements could become reinstated and we are confident that other bilaterals could be agreed, given it is in the interest of both sides for freight to continue to flow."

The deadline for applications for the ECMT scheme is December 21. Applications cost £10 and the annual permit would cost £123. If companies are successful in their application they will get an email in early 2019.