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Haulage firm boss has a 'bit of optimism' after meeting with ministers

The director of a lorry haulage company in Newry has said he now feels "a bit of optimism" after a meeting with Secretary of State Karen Bradley and Brexit Minister David Davis.

But the chief executive of manufacturing giant Quinn Industrial Holdings, which has operations and workers on both sides of the border, urged policy makers to make every effort to avoid the "human, financial and societal costs" of a hard border.

Vincent Waddell, a director of Surefreight of Newry, said the weekend meeting was his fourth Brexit-related discussion "and to be honest, it was the only one where I left with a bit of optimism".

Business Secretary Greg Clarke was also part of the discussions.

Mr Waddell said: "Karen Bradley and David Davis were adamant that there was going to be no hard border and it would be as frictionless as possible and this is why they wanted some input from the haulage industry."

And he said delegates at the meeting told the ministers that technology would be "of no use".

Mr Waddell said some goods from the UK and Europe which arrived into its premises were then loaded into smaller vehicles for the last leg of the journey to Irish customers - and because of that change of vehicle, cameras and number plate recognition at borders "would be of no use".

Glenn Alderdice, general manager of haulage firm Woodside Group, said: "David Davis, Karen Bradley and Greg Clarke were resolute in maintaining an open and frictionless land border between NI and the Republic and no border in the Irish Sea.

"A seamless movement of goods and people certainly seems to be the UK objective. However, there are other parties involved in the negotiations that no doubt will influence the outcome."

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Karen Bradley has also visited the Derrylin, Co Fermanagh and Ballyconnell, Co Cavan premises of manufacturer Quinn Industrial Holdings. It employs 814 people and has a turnover of €210m with operations covering around 1,000 acres in NI and the Republic.

Chief executive Liam McCaffrey said: "It is difficult to overstate the practical implications of the potential return of a hard border for a region so focused on breaking down borders and creating a sustainable community and economy.

"At QIH we account for over 350 cross 'border' truck movements per day and up to 30% of our staff live in one jurisdiction but work in the other.

"Our experience and the experience of hundreds of other businesses in the region is that the return of a hard border would be an enormously retrograde step for this island."

"We are a resilient company and community but the human, financial and societal consequences of a hard border are enormous and require that policy makers north and south spare no effort in delivering a 'soft' border.

"Notwithstanding these challenges, our experience of operating on a cross-border basis over many difficult years means we remain optimistic about future performance and we continue to invest in export and other initiatives."

Belfast Telegraph