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Irish hauliers: 'French officials treat us as if we’re coming from England – we’re not'

Representatives of Irish hauliers have said they are being held up for longer than they should because of French officials.

An exit sign is seen near the custom checkpoint at the Calais Port in France.
An exit sign is seen near the custom checkpoint at the Calais Port in France.
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

IRISH HAULIERS HAVE said that French custom officials are treating trucks that have used the UK landbridge as if they’re British, and not from a fellow EU member state.

The president of the Irish Road Haulage Association Eugene Drennan said that Irish hauliers are being “treated like they’re coming from England” by officials at French ports.

“To the French, we’re only a block off of England,” Drennan told TheJournal.ie.

Around 150,000 trucks a year cross the UK landbridge – a route usually from Dublin, to Holyhead, and across the Channel to northern France – as it’s quicker and cheaper to use than going directly to the European continent by ferry.

But since 1 January this year, when the UK left the EU’s Customs Union and Single Market, additional customs documents, costs, and other paperwork are needed for goods coming from Great Britain, while Ireland’s membership of the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union mean that those bureaucratic barriers are lifted.

But representatives of Irish hauliers have suggested that they are being held up at French ports for longer than they should because officials view them, or their goods, as being British.

Aidan Flynn of the Freight Transport Association has also said that goods coming from Ireland are “effectively viewed as British goods”. 

Flynn said that Ireland’s Department of Agriculture is using “simplifications” of trade rules and requirements – such as using the simpler NCTS transit system instead of using the EU’s more complex TRACES system – when the French are not.

Ireland is not requiring pre-notification 24 hours before transit for EU goods using the landbridge, for example, where the French are requiring this.

In response to these claims raised by hauliers, the Department of Agriculture said:

“Ireland has undertaken substantial engagement at political and official level across the EU to ensure that EU goods moving under transit across the UK landbridge are not subject to unnecessary checks and controls. This engagement is ongoing.”

“Revenue and DAFM (Department of Agriculture), along with DFA (the Department of Foreign Affairs) and our Embassy network are in ongoing contact with their EU and UK counterparts on a range of trade and customs matters, including the functioning of the landbridge.

“We are committed to ensuring the UK landbridge remains a viable route to market for EU traders. Although some limited issues since 1 January have been identified, we are engaging proactively to address any issues that may arise, and overall the landbridge procedure is operating as expected.”

The French Embassy in Dublin was contacted for comment.

france-calais-brexit A customs dog inspects a truck coming from Britain at the Calais Port in France. Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Since new post-Brexit checks have been introduced on 1 January, hauliers have been calling for a simplification of the checks required.

Drennan said that some goods coming into Ireland from Great Britain require up to seven separate documents, which he called “ludicrous”, “cumbersome” and “tough going”. 

Flynn said a “simplification of rules is badly needed”, particularly in relation to safety and security requirements, which were brought in in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, and are not necessary for a former EU member.

These requirements have been waived for goods going to the UK, but not for goods arriving in Ireland.

Flynn said that there are other problems with using the landbridge post-Brexit:

“In the past, you might have 20 pallets on a lorry, and dropped off two or three pallets in the UK and picked up others on the way to the Channel. That activity isn’t open now, you have to ‘transit under seal’.

“If you’re leaving Ireland, and when you arrive into France, if that seal is broken by dropping off pallets in the UK, now you’ve a whole new export declaration… That was a real benefit to the landbridge that you could have efficient delivery and collection.”

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Flynn says that now, “a lot of trucks are coming back empty, and that’s not sustainable.” 

Another problem for hauliers has been the system that logs customs declarations, which is a new requirement for exports to Britain. If a small number of declarations are logged at once, the system works, but if 20,000 are logged simultaneously, the system crashes. 

Flynn says that this has a “disproportionate impact” on deliveries, and doesn’t inspire confidence in the system. 

Revenue said that it has processed over 1.8 million customs declarations from 1 January to 1 February – compared to 1.6 million during the whole of 2020.

In total, they expect 20 million customs declarations to be processed this year – a significant ramp-up of the documentation required previously.

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