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Factcheck: Are there really only 100 lorries crossing the border every day?

A UKIP MEP claimed that only a small number of lorries cross the border daily – but is he right?

factcheck

WE’RE 55 DAYS away from Brexit and UK politicians are continuing to fight Brussels and Dublin on the border backstop.

Earlier this week, 317 MPs voted in favour of an amendment that proposes to remove the backstop and replace it with unspecified “alternative arrangements”, in what was the first indication that the House of Commons had a majority for some kind of consensus on Brexit.

The backstop ensures that Northern Ireland would stay “aligned” to the regulations of the single market and the customs union if there is still no other solution that would avoid infrastructure along the Irish border.

But some UK politicians don’t see the problem with the border and have made a number of claims regarding the amount of trade it sees. 

UKIP MEP Gerard Batten tweeted, and then deleted, the following on Wednesday:

tweet Source: Twitter

THE CLAIM

This is what we’re putting to the test.

We have decided to break down the tweet into two separate fact-checkable pieces. 

  • Approximately 100 lorries cross between the Republic and the North every day
  • Half of the lorries are from Guinness

THE EVIDENCE

Let’s take this claim first: 

  • Approximately 100 lorries cross between the Republic and the North every day

A UK Parliamentary report on the movement of goods across the border (which you can read in full here) states:

177,000 heavy goods vehicles and 208,000 light vans cross the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland every month. 

If we divide this monthly number by 30, we can estimate that 5,900 lorries cross the border on a daily basis. 

The same report found that 208,000 light vans cross the border every month – with the average daily crossing rate sitting around the 7,000 mark.

This gives a total of around 12,900 heavy goods vehicles and light vans each day. 

A House of Commons committee in February 2017 quotes then-Ambassador of Ireland to the UK, Daniel Mulhall, as saying that the 177,000 monthly figure for heavy goods vehicles could be a conservative estimate.

He told the committee (you can view the minutes here): “Here are the figures that I have for border crossings: lorries, 177,000 per month; light vans, 208,000 per month; and cars, 1.85 million.  I am told that these are indicative figures and further analysis is required.  It may be that even those figures do not pick up the sheer scale of it.”

Irish report

In 2017, Revenue published a report called Ireland and the UK – Tax and Customs Links. 

Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) captured data on the number of vehicles crossing the border on national roads. This information is categorised by the direction of the traffic flow and the vehicle type: Cars, Motor Bike, Bus, Caravans, Articulated Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV-ART), Rigid Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV-RIG) and Light Goods Vehicle (LGV). 

For the 12 national roads crossing the border, in 2016, more than 14 million vehicles entered Ireland from NI:

  • There were 1 million crossings by HGVs or 2,700 on average per day;
  • 1.3 million by LGVs or 3,600 per day;
  • and 12 million by cars or 32,900 per day.

crossings The border crossings as shown in Revenue's 2017 report. Source: Revenue

The Revenue report found that there were 4,677,772 cross border journeys by HGVs and LGVs – meaning that, on average, there were 12,815 border crossings on a daily basis.

This tallies with the UK’s findings which found there were, around 13,000 daily crossings.

Gerard Batten did not respond to TheJournal.ie‘s request for a comment but as noted above, he has deleted the tweet.

The Guinness claim

On the second part of his tweet, Batten claimed that half of the border crossings were undertaken by Guinness vehicles.

A spokesperson for Diageo told TheJournal.ie that “There are 13,000 crossings associated with the packaging of beer.” This works out at 35 per day which is neither half of 100 or half of the estimated 13,000 journeys per day.

The third claim

After deleting his initial tweet, Batten sought to clarify his claims.

Yesterday, he tweeted the following: 

So we now have a third claim to check. 

“Let me clarify, the figure was for approx 100 heavy goods vehicles per day on the main Dublin-Belfast Rd,” he wrote. 

By saying the Dublin-Belfast road, he is referring to the M1 motorway. 

Revenue, in its 2017 report, said 28% of ALL cross-border traffic between 2014 and 2016 went through this route. As demonstrated in the below graph, a relatively large proportion of that is goods vehicles. 

TRAFFIC The N1/M1 traffic breakdown (far left all green) Source: Revenue

According to another report  by the EU, the busiest crossing for Northern Ireland-registered HGVs is the Newry-Dundalk corridor, “which represents 50% of all crossings by Northern Ireland registered vehicles”.

Taking into account that around 6,000 HGVs cross the border on a daily basis – the idea that just 100 of them use that route per day does not make sense. 

If this were the case, it would mean just 1.6% of HGVs use the busiest road connecting north and south. 

VERDICT

It is abundantly clear from various UK and Irish reports that there is an exponentially higher number of lorries crossing the Irish border on a daily basis than the 100 MEP Gerard Batten initially quoted. 

The most up-to-date government reports from both Ireland and the UK show that, on average, around 13,000 cross border journeys are made by those driving heavy goods vehicles and light goods vehicles. 

We rate this first claim: NONSENSE

As per our verdict guide, this means: The claim is wildly inaccurate, logically impossible, and/or ridiculous.

As the first strand of this FactCheck has been rated as nonsense, that means the second aspect regarding Guinness and its deliveries is now redundant and must also be FALSE

The third claim – the clarification from Batten – is also FALSE

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

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