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Not much optimism for Irish hauliers after no-deal Brexit tailback test at Dover

Yesterday, 89 trucks took part in a no-deal Brexit test to see what delays there would be if there were checks at the Port of Dover.

Brexit A lorry arriving at the Port of Dover in Kent for the second trial of a government plan. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

 The idea of frictionless trade outside the Single Market is a myth.

IRISH HAULIER REPRESENTATIVES have said that the no-deal test run at the Port of Dover was too little too late, and wasn’t representative of how bad the tailbacks could be.

Yesterday, the UK government paid truck drivers to take part in a test of how one element of trade would be handled in the event of a no-deal.

The Port of Dover is Europe’s busiest ferry port, and is the second busiest in England; its Cargo Terminal handles 300,000 tonnes of freight annually.

A no-deal Brexit would see additional custom and regulatory checks at ports and airports, and possibly along the Irish border unless the Good Friday Agreement supersedes no-deal Brexit arrangements.

But the test was criticised as “a waste of time” and not accurate to how bad the traffic would actually be in the event of a no-deal.

According to an article in the Financial Times, a government report said that if custom checks were to delay each vehicle by over 80 seconds, it would lead to “no recovery”, meaning permanent gridlock in and out of Dover.

If the delays take 40 seconds or less, then there will be no additional delays, according to the Financial Times. 

When Aidan Flynn, General Manager of the Irish Freight Association was asked about the likelihood of checks taking less than 40 seconds, he said it was “unreasonable”.

Remember, there are multi-agency checks, not just customs and tariffs. There are checks related to the Single Market, licence requirements, and immigration – such as the nationality of drivers. It’s very complex, and a five-minute delay would lead to a subsequent 17- to 20-mile tailback getting out of the port.

He also says that the uncertain nature of the congestion on the way to the port means that there are issues for driver safety, as it’s more difficult to take a break.

“The landbridge used is because it’s the path with the least amount of friction and it’s the quickest way of getting to continental Europe. But it could now create its own bottleneck for the delivery reaching its destination on time and all subsequent deliveries.

Remember that they would be also coming back with another product, so there would be knock on delays for products coming into Ireland, too.

Flynn said that there was a suggestion that Irish hauliers could operate under the Common Transport Convention, but that would need to be paid for and developed.

“Nobody will be exempt for checks,” Flynn adds.

“The UK doesn’t have the infrastructure to give Irish hauliers a free route into these ports, so you’re going to get caught [in these tailbacks] no matter what. Looks completely unworkable, but you do have to try these things, so locals ad politicians can see the impact a no-deal would have on their region. We already know the impact it would have.”

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