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The truth about road-pricing

Certain anti-European groups have been getting agitated lately about an experiment in road-pricing that is underway. They complain that the EU is forcing another tax on motorists, in order to pay for road-building in other parts of Europe. The truth is rather different.

First of all, there is no compulsion on any member state to introduce road-pricing. It is up to each country to decide whether or not to do it.

But secondly, and importantly, the European Commission’s initiative makes a lot of sense. At present, there are often complaints from British lorry drivers that their continental colleagues have a competitive advantage because lorry taxes are lower there. Foreign lorries can drive on British roads paying taxes where they are registered rather than where they drive.

To deal with this anomaly, the EU is experimenting with road toll systems so that lorries pay towards the costs of the roads they drive on, in whichever country they happen to be. Because lorries cross borders often – they are one of the main means of transporting goods from one country to another within the single market – it makes sense to have a common system for monitoring and collecting tolls rather than requiring each lorry to carry up to 27 different bits of electronic equipment, one for each country it might enter.

A road toll system of this sort will align the costs paid by lorry transport much more closely with the environmental and other costs that lorry transport causes, and will do so with the minimum of bureaucracy and red tape. Of course this is the right thing to do: it is exactly what the EU was invented for.

Think about the options:

(1) continue with the current system that puts UK lorry drivers at a competitive disadvantage

(2) ban foreign lorry drivers from British roads or tax them heavily, in which case British lorry drivers can expect the equivalent treatment in other countries, and the cost of importing and exporting goods will go up a lot

(3) replace national road toll schemes with a European scheme, raising and spending the money at EU rather than national level

(4) enabling the member states to cooperate together using technology to reduce costs and regulatory burdens on business

Why, given the alternatives, are the eurosceptics objecting to option 4?

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