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EU to launch procedure against Britain over trucks toll - report

BERLIN (Reuters) - The European Commission plans to open a legal procedure against Britain over its introduction two years ago of a road toll for foreign trucks, Germany’s Spiegel magazine reported on Friday.

Drivers wait next to their parked lorries on the M20 motorway, which leads from London to the Channel Tunnel terminal at Ashford and the Ferry Terminal at Dover, as part of Operation Stack in southern England, Britain July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall

The plan, if confirmed, could provide ammunition to those campaigning for Britain to vote to leave the European Union in a June 23 referendum. The “Out” campaign partly feeds on popular resentment over the EU’s interference in people’s daily lives.

Spiegel said the plan was mentioned in a letter, dated April 13, sent by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s chief of staff to German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt regarding a similar German toll tax.

The Commission, the EU’s executive, launched a challenge, known as an infringement proceeding, against Berlin last June over its plans to charge foreign car drivers who use its Autobahn motorways.

The Commission says the plans contravene EU rules on equal treatment.

Spiegel said the Commission had said in its letter to Dobrindt that Britain had failed to provide “sufficient proof” to refute its concerns over a 2014 law that imposes a road toll on foreign hauliers using British roads.

“Therefore the European Commission is preparing in this case an infringement proceeding, after an exchange with the British authorities over the last few weeks remained inconclusive,” the letter was quoted as saying.

The Commission had no immediate comment on the Spiegel report. A spokesman for the German transport ministry said he could not comment.

Britain introduced the road toll after complaining that British truck drivers faced similar tolls when delivering goods in Europe. It says the measure helps to ensure a fairer system that allows British hauliers to compete better.

Opinion polls show British voters are leaning towards the “In” campaign ahead of the referendum but many remain undecided. During a visit to London on Friday U.S. President Barack Obama urged Britons to stay in the EU.

Reporting by Joseph Nasr, Tom Koerkemeier, Markus Wacket; Editing by Gareth Jones