Sea Logistics

Brexit: ‘Problems’ in first week of post-deal GB-NI trade

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By Conor Macauley
BBC NI Agriculture & Environment Correspondent

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Larne portimage copyrightReuters
image captionThe first lorries to cross the new Irish Sea trade border arrived in Belfast and Larne on Friday
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Business leaders have described “significant problems” encountered on the Irish Sea trade border in the first week of its operation.

MPs were taking evidence on how new rules on imports from Great Britain to Northern Ireland were working.

They were told some British companies were not aware of how to comply and that had caused difficulty.

Six lorries on the first ferry arriving in Belfast on 1 January were delayed because of incomplete paperwork.

Six out of 15 lorry loads had not been pre-notified and when officials checked the manifest in Belfast it simply said “food”, the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee was told.

Seamus Leheny of the freight trade body Logistics UK said officials had shown great flexibility to help work up the necessary forms retrospectively and allow the loads to move.

All movements of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland now require a customs declaration and some products need additional certification.

Aodhán Connolly
image captionAodhan Connolly says problems arose because some of the guidance was published at short notice

That is because while the UK has left the EU, Northern Ireland has remained in the EU single market for goods and is applying the EU’s customs rules under a protocol agreed between the UK and the EU.

Mr Leheny also said one large Great Britain-based company had 15 loads of food bound for Northern Ireland but hauliers had been unable to lift them because there had been no accompanying customs paperwork.

He told MPs: “The operator quite rightly said: ‘There’s no point in me lifting these because I’ll simply be detained or refused entry to board the ferry.'”

One Northern Ireland haulier had sent 285 trucks to Great Britain since 1 January but only 100 of them returned to Northern Ireland.

“The knock on is that they can’t service NI exports going back to GB because they’ve got lorries and equipment sitting in England, waiting for loads that aren’t ready yet.

“This is because businesses in England, Scotland and Wales haven’t been prepared.”

‘Unmitigated disaster’

Mr Leheny said there were particular problems with groupage – collecting multiple loads in Great Britain – for delivery to Northern Ireland.

He said some hauliers might do about 12 collections and each needed a customs declaration which required 20 to 30 minutes of administration.

The DUP’s Ian Paisley said it appeared that even a week in the Northern Ireland Protocol had been an “unmitigated disaster”.

The North Antrim MP said he had been contacted by one County Antrim haulier who said it had led to a paperwork mountain, the displacement of his drivers and was “costing him a clean fortune”.

He suggested the problems could justify the unilateral setting aside of the protocol under Article 16 of the agreement.

Aodhan Connolly of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium said the way in which some guidance had been provided just hours before the new rules took effect had created problems.

He said rules on parcel imports had only been given the day before and some operators had suspended deliveries, though many were now recommencing them.

Mr Connolly said retailers were glad there had been a deal and that they had the protocol.

Brandon Lewisimage copyrightReuters
image captionNorthern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis insists companies are dealing with the new measures

However, they felt the issues in the first week were “just the opening skirmishes” and many had stocked up in advance.

He said some were concerned there were…

Read More: Brexit: ‘Problems’ in first week of post-deal GB-NI trade

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