Logistics 'could be in limbo' if UK Brexits without deal, say hauliers
We will be "disproportionally affected" compared to Britain in the event of a bad or no deal for the UK, the Northern Ireland Freight Transport Association has said.
Policy manager Seamus Leheny said such a prospect would be "a major blow to those involved in the transport of goods as well as the many local businesses who rely on those goods".
A controversial amendment to the Customs Bill that went through Westminster earlier this week saw Prime Minister Theresa May's Government agree to a legal guarantee that there will be no customs border between Northern Ireland and Britain.
Mr Leheny said it was "a major blow to those involved in the transport of goods as well as the many local businesses who rely on those goods".
He suggested that the likelihood of the UK "crashing out of Europe without a deal continues to increase and threatens to leave logistics in limbo." Mr Leheny explained: "In the event of a bad or no deal for the UK, Northern Ireland stands to be disproportionally affected compared to Great Britain, due to the nature of the all-island supply chains.
"Businesses in Northern Ireland rely more extensively on the ability to transport their goods into the EU compared to similar businesses in Great Britain.
"This can be illustrated by the types of operator licences utilised in both regions, where in Northern Ireland, 27% of operating licences are for the transport of goods outside of the UK compared to just 10% in GB.
"Commercial goods vehicle traffic across the Irish border was estimated at 4,677,772 vehicle movements for the year 2016, according to analysis of TII data by Irish Revenue and Customs.
This works out at a staggering 12,788 commercial vehicle movements daily across the border.
"It's also worth highlighting that, compared to 2014, commercial vehicle traffic across the Irish border has increased by 21.4%.
"This clearly demonstrates that both economies, north and south, continue to become more reliant on one another as our supply chains become more entwined.
"In the event of a hard border we could face the prospect of severe delays in the movement of goods which in today's 'just in time' supply chain models would cause damaging delays and added costs that suppliers, manufacturers and ultimately consumers will have to pay for.
"Due to the complex all-island supply chains developed in recent decades, vital commodities, much of them, agri-based, cross the border several times before the finished product is ready for export.
"Any additional costs due to delays, administration and rerouting of loads threatens to decimate this important indigenous industry."
Meanwhile, Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts is attending meetings in Westminster this week to seek clarification over the amendment.
He said: "Does this mean that there will be a second white paper to encompass this amendment? Our position is paramount. We want to see postBrexit a supply chain that is fully functioning but does not create a higher consumer shopping bill.
"Form filling must be kept to a minimum."