The Government’s new blueprint for Brexit has received a lukewarm response from the freight and logistics sector.
Under the new plans, outlined by Boris Johnson on Wednesday, Northern Ireland would stay in the single market for goods but leave the customs union. This would lead to two different customs territories and the introduction of new customs checks.
Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive at the British Ports Association, said: “The majority of Northern Ireland’s trade is with Great Britain and a border in the Irish Sea would be extremely challenging for the ports in Northern Ireland and those in England and Scotland who have freight routes. Ironically also in a ‘no deal’ situation there could be displacement issues for Welsh ports.
“We recognise the sensitivities and issues around the land border and have always said that the best resolution and the best way to meet the Government’s commitment to frictionless trade is a deal that has no customs or regulatory checks at all, anywhere.”
Customs posts on either side of the Irish border would harm the economy, leading to delays and increased costs, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) have warned .
RHA’s Northern Ireland Policy Manager, John Martin, had urged the Government to strike a deal with the EU which will keep goods flowing freely across the border.
“It’s crucial we maintain unfettered access both ways to ensure the continued and efficient movements of goods,” he said
ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT said the plan simply moves the red tape and checks away from the Republic of Ireland border, further back downstream.
Under the new plans traders moving goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will need to notify the relevant authorities before entering NI, in order to provide the necessary information to undertake the appropriate checks, and, where appropriate, prevent the entry of products prohibited or restricted by EU rules.
The Government’s new plan proposes a new notification requirement, covering:
• The nature of the goods in the consignment, and where they were produced;
• The people sending (exporting) and receiving (importing) the goods; and
• Where the goods will depart and arrive.
David added: “This is obviously a tangle of new red tape where none existed before.”
The plan also proposes all goods movements between Northern Ireland and the ROI will be notified using a declaration; so that regulatory checks will not have to apply. The plan makes some provision for small traders and even suggests they ’should be exempted from processes and from paying duty altogether.
But David warned: “Such exceptions to the rules are unlikely to be met with open arms by the EU.
“The new Northern Ireland Protocol also proposes a Trusted Trader scheme. Eligible traders would have access to benefits which make the customs process for goods moving from one territory to another easier. The Government suggests authorities in both NI and the ROI would commit to applying appropriate schemes, and could offer benefits to one another’s authorised traders. While the easing of red tape on small and trusted traders would be helpful, there is absolutely no guarantee such proposals would be workable in practice.”
David concluded: “In the meantime what is proposed, far from meeting Brexiteers’ promise of cutting red tape and expense, is an increase in paperwork and checks. Far from being a frictionless border, there’s no doubt many businesses will find it rather chaffing.”