Freight News, Logistics, Business

FTA welcomes Ulster trade plans

[ May 20, 2020   //   ]

The Freight Transport Association has welcomed the government’s approach to the Northern Ireland protocol paper, announced by Michael Gove on 20 May. It described it as “a welcome commitment by the government to the obligations it signed up to in the Northern Ireland protocol and its EU exit deal proposal.”

FTA’s Northern Ireland policy manager, Seamus Leheny, said it was “ an encouraging step towards guaranteeing NI’s businesses unfettered access to the rest of UK trade while ensuring continued frictionless trade with the EU” and would give reassurance to Irish businesses that trading relationships should continue with minimal interruption.  However, he warned that some additional process would probably be needed to move goods into NI “and this could create delays and additional costs which must be avoided if possible.”

The government has confirmed it will not levy tariffs on goods which will remain within its territory, with only those items going to the EU or deemed at risk of further distribution being charged.

It says there will be no export documentation, exit declarations, customs formalities or regulatory checks on goods leaving Great Britain for Northern Ireland, and no additional infrastructure in ports in Great Britain.

Leheny said: “Logistics operators in NI have been concerned for some time about the new trading environment in which they will be expected to operate, and the constraints this may place on the ‘just in time’ supply chain.”

He described the declaration as a positive first step in ensuring the GB-NI supply chain, “but more information is urgently needed to reassure operators that trade can continue to flow freely without unnecessary charges or delays”.

FTA is concerned though at the acknowledgement that there will be some limited additional processes on goods arriving into Northern Ireland including some checks on agrifood products at Northern Irish ports or airports. It points out that there is limited infrastructure currently for the level of examinations that would be required.

Leheny said: “The need to check fresh produce and other agrifood products will need new or expanded infrastructure to be installed at a matter of urgency at all NI airports and ports, and these will need to be operated in conjunction with the NI executive. The frequency and nature of these checks must be determined by the special joint committee between the UK and EU as a matter of urgency, so that all necessary arrangements can be made in a timely fashion, and staff trained to the relevant standards and processes.”

He added: “The government states that it will utilise technology in surveillance of trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain to avoid any potential exploitation of the new protocol agreement,” he continues, “but logistics operators will want to know how this will work in practice and what they can do to mitigate it.

FTA also welcomed a commitment by government that HMRC and other agencies will work with businesses in Northern Ireland, as well as providing funding and support.