‘Surety of timeline and delivery’ not guaranteed for agri-food via land-bridge

“Surety of service, timeline and delivery” cannot be guaranteed if hauliers must rely on the UK land-bridge to bring exports to mainland Europe, according to members of the haulage industry.

Eugene Drennan, president of the Irish Road Haulage Association, said on Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1 this morning (Thursday, September 24) that the impact of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit will be huge on the sector.

“We’ve been warning for nearly two years that trade will be upset,” Drennan said.

He added that any bit of a “hiccup” or delay due to the land-bridge will mean “thousands of trucks ‘stacking’ on the M20 before Dover”.

Drennan spoke of the “havoc” that will ensue, and the need for a “daily, fast, effective service to France”.

Simple stuff such as ingredients for bread are all imported here. You can expect double the price, a delay with sometimes scarcity if this gets really clogged up.

“And then to the international [trade] – you wouldn’t have surety of service, surety of timeline and delivery and to agriculture product – if you’re not on the markets, at the time of day you’re supposed to be there, you’ve lost your position; you’ve lost your market.”

John Martin, Northern Ireland policy manager with the British Road Haulage Association, said his ask is that “clarity is provided in a timely manner to ensure everyone has time to implement their systems procedures”.

“The [UK] government has failed to deliver despite all the pressure the sector has put on it,” Martin said.

He also said that people have “now realised because of Covid-19” that the industry is “very finely balanced”.

“Everything is just on time, particularly fresh product coming from Europe. The sector can’t afford, nor businesses, two days sitting in a car park in Kent.”

‘What is wrong with the government?’

Speaking on the matter in the Dáil yesterday, independent TD Verona Murphy said “the time has come to put vital daily ferries to mainland Europe in service”.

“Is this government going to continue to take an ostrich approach and bury its head in the sand in relation to Brexit?

Why is it not moving heaven and earth to reduce the economy’s reliance on the UK market and the UK land-bridge?

“The time has come to put vital daily ferries to mainland Europe in service.

“Doing so now would dramatically reduce the risk to Ireland’s trade with the EU. Members of the government are not listening to warnings from the people in the know – they are talking among themselves.

“They are not reading the correspondence from stakeholders or, if they are, they are not answering it.”

Deputy Murphy said that the “land-bridge will not work and the government needs to put in place a fast, efficient daily ferry service from Ireland to France now”.

What is wrong with the government? Anyone would think [it] is waiting on a sign from God.

“Who will want to do business on an island when they cannot get their product on or off the island on a competitive timeline, one which gives certainty of delivery times? It will all be because the government would not ensure that a daily shipping service to and from mainland Europe was in place.

“Fast and efficient means the shortest, most viable option to mainland Europe and that comes from Rosslare to Le Havre or Cherbourg. It also needs to operate on a daily basis.”