A purportedly "straightforward" form that Northern Ireland businesses will have to fill out to send goods to Great Britain post-Brexit is actually a complex document with "31 data elements", it has emerged.
In October last year, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay revealed in the Commons that paperwork would be required for the hauliers, prompting anger from DUP MPs.
He later insisted the form would involve "fairly straightforward" data and would not be a burden on business.
It has now emerged, however, the paperwork will be more complicated than previously suggested, according to a Guardian report.
The Freight Transport Association said hauliers could be fined if they get elements of the "Exit Summary Declaration" wrong and called for it to be ruled out in negotiations.
“There are up to 31 data elements in an exit summary declaration required to take goods out of the EU now and post-Brexit (ie out of Northern Ireland) when the mode is road freight. Only two of these are optional, meaning 29 data elements are mandatory," the FTA's head of European policy, Pauline Bastidon said.
When Stephen Barclay confirmed paperwork would be necessary last year, the then-DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds warned: ""This will adversely affect the most important trade we have in Northern Ireland."
Mr Barclay responded by waving a one-page form and stating: “This is an administrative process, this is an electronic form, this is part of bookings that will be done with the haulier as part of the shipment of goods and actually involves fairly straightforward data in terms of who is exporting, who is importing and what the nature of the goods are."
Prime Minister Boris Johnson even said, during a visit to Northern Ireland, that business leaders could "throw the form in the bin".
Seamus Leheny, policy manager at the Freight Transport Association in Northern Ireland, said: “It’s the haulier who must complete the paperwork. The concern is if a mistake is made and a load refused on board a ferry, it could then miss its sailing which would have a big impact on ‘just in time’ loads, especially for the retail trade.”
Earlier this week, a senior EU official warned they would not tolerate any "backsliding" by the UK on the Northern Ireland elements of the Brexit deal.
Stefaan de Rynck, an adviser to the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, also said the UK could face sanctions if it does to implement the necessary checks on goods.
"There are clear commitments on the UK which are legally binding and have to be implemented," he said at an event in London.
"We will not tolerate any backsliding or half measures on this. It is clear what needs to be done by both sides and we will stick to that."