As we come to the end of the first week of trading with Britain outside the single market and customs union, it is clear that major difficulties are emerging for hauliers with return journeys from Britain to Ireland.

Many British exporters appear not to be familiar with what is required in relation to customs declarations and veterinary health certificates for exporting from Britain to the EU.

These difficulties also extend to deliveries into Northern Ireland from Britain, which are also subject to the new rules.

Problem getting back from Britain, not going out

In giving evidence to the House of Commons NI committee on Wednesday this week, the Logistics UK policy manager for Northern Ireland Seamus Leheny said that of the 280 trucks that had gone out with deliveries to Britain at the start of this week, only 100 were on their way back.

Companies shipping to NI don’t appear to be familiar with what is required.

No problems so far with Irish exports to Britain under the new rules that came into effect on 1 January. \ Philip Doyle

It is similar south of the border, where a haulier told the Irish Farmers Journal that there were several loads of potatoes ready to ship to Ireland for chips, but he couldn’t take them because the company wasn’t in a position to provide the necessary documentation.

Ireland imports huge quantities of consumer goods, particularly breakfast products, biscuits and other ambient foods, and if the disruption continues, consumers will notice spaces on supermarket shelves in the coming days.

Knock-on effect

All of this has no direct consequences for Irish farmers, but if there is a prolonged disruption there could be a knock-on effect.

Many hauliers across the island of Ireland have fridges empty in Britain and are unable to pick up their usual load back to complete the journey.

If this was to continue, then there could quickly be a shortage of fridges to take Irish exports to Britain and continental markets.

Ultimately, they could return to Ireland empty, but this would have the effect of doubling the transport cost.

Huge demand for direct sailings to continent

The new rules have also resulted in a switch to using the direct sailing to France instead of the preferred land bridge through the UK.

The Irish Farmers Journal has learned that the direct sailings are fully booked several days ahead, with a growing waiting list, and that is assuming no weather disruption to the service.

New normal for trade

The other concern is that the first week of January is normally one of the quietest weeks of the year and even more so this year, as so much was transported ahead of the Brexit deadline.

However, there are also reports of goods passing through ports smoothly with minimal disruption where the paperwork was in order.

This means that, in time, when companies, particularly in Britain, become familiar with what is required, trade can return to what will be a new normal - functioning, but with more red tape and cost of doing business.

Read more

COVID-19 effect continues on retail