Speaking on Monday at a special conference on Brexit entitled “Keeping trade flowing”, organized by the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) and hosted by Rosslare Europort, EU Commissioner Phil Hogan said that Ireland must prepare for a scenario where the UK leaves the EU without agreement next March, meaning a hard Brexit.
“In preparing for a hard Brexit, the Irish Government need to consider the sea port capacity to ship freight directly to France,” he added. “Ireland cannot worry about what preparations are in place in UK ports.”
Commissioner Hogan was highly critical of the lack of workable proposals coming from Westminster and said:“that the latest episodes of the Brexit reality show have shown us Prime Minister May battling with the mutineers, and the mutineers battling with each other. This means that, less than two weeks out from a key meeting of EU leaders, which is supposed to settle this very question, we are no closer to the UK converging around a real, workable solution”.
Relating to the affect on the Irish road transport sector, Verona Murphy, President of the Irish Road Haulage Association said: “Brexit is often talked about in terms of an event that will happen in 2019 but won’t really have any impact until 2021 or later. For the licensed Road Haulage Sector in Ireland Brexit is already biting and the impact is absolutely frightening. We need to be Brexit ready now and the Irish Government and State Agencies need to plan for a hard Brexit given the political uncertainties in Westminster.”
Ms. Murphy added: “As a potential disruptor to mercantile trade, Brexit has the capacity to seriously damage our national economy and our international trading relationships. The effects are already plain to predict – major delays at our Ports as Customs, the Department of Agriculture and the HSE all carry out inspection checks which have not applied on trade across the EU to date. The implications of these checks and the delays that they will create for the transit of goods to and from Ireland will seriously threaten our economic competitiveness. We would see Ferries being delayed, kilometres of queues in Ports, shortages in goods and increases in the price of consumer goods as restrictions kick-in. There will also be increases in the cost of transport of goods as trips become longer, less efficient and delayed.”
Economist Jim Power, who also spoke at the conference, said that the environment for the haulage sector has become more difficult and more volatile due to intense competition and numerous cost increases and face considerable challenges due to Brexit. However, he said that Brexit may also provide opportunity for the South East of Ireland, particularly in the potential development of Rosslare Europort.
Jim Meade, CEO of Iarnród Éireann, which operates Rosslare Europort, commented: “As a key valuable strategic asset to the South East Region, Rosslare Europort can play a vital role post Brexit in supporting both the freight and tourism markets for the region and the island of Ireland.”
In conclusion Verona Murphy said:“As the Europort in Rosslare represents the shortest sea route for goods and passengers to continental Europe, the Port is ideally positioned to expand and grow in a post-Brexit scenario. The Port can be a catalyst for investment within the region and offers real potential as a base for increased commercial and employment generating activities. In particular there is major potential for Rosslare to become a significant Port for the transportation of agriculture and food products and as such it should receive the necessary designations and inspection facilities to enable this to take place. This would be of huge benefit to Rosslare, Wexford and the South East generally.”
Pictured at the IRHA Rosslare Europort conference on Brexit were: (from left to right) – Avril Doyle, former MEP, EU Commissioner Phil Hogan and Verona Murphy, President of the Irish Road Haulage Association