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Urgent action needed in ‘unready’ Ireland, says FTAI

[ January 16, 2019   //   ]

The UK government’s failure to push its Brexit plan through Parliament on 15 January will have significant ramifications across the Irish Sea unless the Irish administration takes urgent steps, says FTA Ireland.
FTAI general manager Aidan Flynn said it was vital to reassure businesses on both sides of the border that trade can continue uninterrupted.
He said: “Irish businesses cannot wait any longer – planning for a No Deal outcome to Brexit negotiations need to be ramped up to ensure that the nation’s trading relationships do not come under threat while new arrangements are bedded in.”
He urged Simon Coveney, the minister who is leading Ireland’s Brexit engagement, to meet with stakeholders in the logistics industry as a matter of urgency – despite many requests from FTAI, this has not happened in the past two years. Flynn said: “This lack of contact and failure to understand the issues facing operators is leaving a sector which is at the heart of Irish business without guidance or support from central government at a critical point in our nation’s history. This is simply not good enough.”
He did though welcome the funding available through Enterprise Ireland and InterTradeIreland for Brexit planning, but it does not go far enough, he said, pointing out: “With no clear indications on how goods will be permitted to travel across the nation’s borders, what checks will be required, how they will be made and, indeed, what format these checks will take, the funding available is insufficient to enable fast track training and development for businesses and staff to ensure that goods can continue to move to and from Ireland.”
New checks, whether physical or online, will impact Ireland’s ‘just in time’ supply chain, and it would be unfair to simply expect these to be imposed on 29 March, with no training, advice or assistance for businesses which will have to work with the new arrangements.
Flynn continues, while recruitment of new veterinary and revenue inspectors has been started by the Irish government, this cannot be used as a marker of Brexit readiness: “There is more to being ready than adding inspectors to carry out border checks – if business is unaware of the systems which will be employed at the border, and has insufficient training or information, delays will be the unavoidable outcome as business tries to move goods or materials.
“Government needs to engage with industry representatives and stakeholders to support training across the economy and build awareness of the processes which will be implemented: at the moment, there is little or no guidance available.
It is vital that a transition period is negotiated with the UK to give business the time it needs to prepare for the new trading conditions – not least to allow the negotiation of a new free trade deal, which will protect the integrity of Ireland’s complex, interconnected supply chain, he said: “Government is currently hanging the responsibility for making this new environment work on the logistics industry, with no help or support, which is unacceptable – the logistics sector is at the heart of everything that moves through the country’s economy, and should be afforded some respect and consideration to ensure that Ireland can keep trading effectively, both domestically and internationally.”

Get behind the industry, urges UK FTA
The FTA in the UK meanwhile urged politicians to reach a decision to support businesses – otherwise it would the UK’s trading platform and economy in jeopardy.
Deputy chief executive, James Hookham said: “A No Deal Brexit would be highly damaging for trade, for business and for Britain. With no clear solution for what happens next, the risk of a No Deal has risen significantly – and the problems which this would cause of businesses, which now have virtually no time to prepare, would be catastrophic for the UK’s supply chain.
He added: “Mrs May’s Lancaster House speech, two years ago to the day. promised that frictionless trade would be protected, whatever the outcome of negotiations with the EU: this promise has not materialised. A No Deal would increase delays at the country’s borders, increase red tape and costs for logistics businesses already operating on narrow margins, restrict access for transport to the EU and reduce the available skilled workforce for logistics operators – all problematic on their own, but when viewed together, a perfect storm which could cause untold damage to businesses and individuals right across the country, not just those trading directly with the EU.”
The logistics sector has been asking government for clarification for two years on issues such as how customs declarations are to be made and tariffs collected, the access rights for trailers and UK personnel.
Hookham said: “Logistics must not and will not be held up as the “whipping boy” for politicians who have failed to take into account the complexity of the supply chain over the past two years. Operators of all sizes are always prepared to go the extra mile to deliver for customers, but without knowing the parameters of the market in which they are and will be working, planning has been almost impossible.