Brexit causing major headaches for Northern Irish retailers

Published on: 11th January 2021

Hauliers warn that system for getting supplies to Northern Ireland may be days from collapse due to Irish Sea border.

According to media report, hauliers have warned that, just a week into the Irish sea border, Northern Ireland’s supply chain to the rest of the UK is close to collapse.

Marks & Spencer has already begun to withdraw hundreds of items from sale in Northern Ireland. M&S said that while it was committed to remaining in the province, the move was due to the complexity of the new requirement to make customs declarations when any goods are ‘imported’ to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

The Ulster Unionist Party has tabled a motion to recall the Assembly to discuss the “horrendous difficulties” caused by the customs and regulatory border and urged Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill to request that the government relaxes the new border regime.

In the report sent to Michael Gove, the Road Haulage Association’s (RHA) chief executive Richard Burnett warned that its members are experiencing major difficulties getting products into Northern Ireland from Great Britain, citing numerous examples from named hauliers. One firm said was sending 50 trailers a day to Great Britain but only getting 30 back due because of faulty HMRC systems. The company said that some of its customers had ‘believed government PR’ that everything would be fine and had no idea about the new red tape.

One company commented: “The whole thing is a disaster to be honest. It is currently easier to ship a container to China than a trailer from Cairnryan to Larne”, while another said: “Today we have four Tesco loads. We have repeatedly asked what their arrangements are but we are on a constant wild goose chase – this is one of the biggest supermarkets in the UK and they don’t even know what they are doing. Another driver just phoned who has been sitting at DHL since 9am as they cannot get their paperwork right. We are currently paying drivers to sit in their lorry.”

The RHA said that the complex bureaucratic systems in place are “not fit for purpose” and did not work in relation to basic realities such as lorries picking up multiple small loads at various locations, or travelling from Northern Ireland to GB via the Port of Dublin. The RHA said that officials “are clearly stating that they intend to enforce the legislation despite a lack of resource, capability and systems on the Great Britain side”.

The RHA concluded that the current situation effectively represented “a hard border on Northern Irish soil”.

Yesterday Michael Gove warned that the Irish Sea border problem “will get worse before it gets better” but insisted that “work is ongoing” and it is “all part of the process of leaving the European Union”.



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