An Irish freight group has warned of huge post-Brexit disruption to supply chains in coming weeks, as the impact of Britain leaving the EU takes hold.
The Freight Transport Association of Ireland (FTAI) wrote to Taoiseach Micheál Martin on Thursday warning him of empty supermarket shelves, job losses and rising prices unless the Government takes action to assist the industry trying to bring goods into the country.
The letter, signed by FTAI general manager Aidan Flynn, also said the industry was struggling to keep the flow of goods moving.
“There is a growing backlog of goods of all hues, from mechanical parts (car parts) to electrical household goods, furniture, clothing, food supplies, sitting in depots because there are not enough agents to process the declarations correctly,” the group said.
“There are issues with the systems and there are problems with providing enough support and guidance on the new requirements to industry to make this work.
“The net result will be that companies operating on very tight margins will cease trading, creating unemployment, supply lines will disappear, and the consumer will be left with less supply and increased prices.”
“The island’s vulnerability in these challenging times cannot be overstated,” it added.
The association said stockpiling prior to Christmas had masked some of the effects of Brexit so far.
“The reality is that volumes are low, the profile of traffic is that unit loads of non-food products are clearing customs relatively easily and all this against a background of huge stockpiling pre-Brexit,” the letter said.
“As the stockpile requires replenishment the real challenge will come and that is why the current issues that our members have highlighted to us are a stark warning/signal that there is inevitably going to be huge disruption with many knock-on effects to the supply chain.”
FTAI said there is not enough ferry service supply on direct routes to continental Europe and that the landbridge through the UK, which typically carries about 80% of traffic to the EU volumewise, was now effectively “out of bounds” for almost all exporters due to the potential delays at the Channel ports.
Meanwhile, Mr Martin said the Irish Government and businesses are managing very damaging developments in the wake of Brexit.
He said these include considerable change and greater complexity, especially anyone doing business with Britain.
“Now that Brexit has become a reality, we are seeing operational effects on supply chains, and on ports, on trade between Great Britain and the European Union countries, including Ireland,” he added.
In an online speech hosted by the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA), Mr Martin said the agreement reached between the EU and the UK on Christmas Eve was the “least bad” version of Brexit.
He said a striking feature around the debate in the UK about Europe in the last few decades was the repetition of the idea that sovereignty is a “zero-sum issue”.
“We rejected that idea and just as importantly, we know that you never let up in confronting those who spread it,” Mr Martin added.
"In overall terms, the Agreement reached on Christmas Eve, together with the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, means that Ireland’s key objectives in the Brexit process have been achieved." - @MichealMartinTD pic.twitter.com/peMH3brh7W— IIEA (@iiea) January 15, 2021
“Anyone who cares to look and say how the European Union enhances opportunities for countries, the single market, free movement, supports for agriculture, solidarity and cooperation and facing challenges like energy, security and climate change, and the countless benefits to our citizens.
“The picture of what life can be like without those benefits is also beginning to be revealed.
“While there are those who would like to undermine the Union, Ireland stands with those who seek to strengthen and reform it.
“Of course, the European Union of which we are a part is now a different place. Our neighbours in the United Kingdom, unfortunately, and sadly, have chosen to leave.
“It was a decision based on the debate, which I don’t think could be described as having been informed by the reality of what was being proposed.
“After the past four years, indeed after 40 years of the impact of English Euroscepticism on the operation of the European Union, we need to move on and start again.
“This is so, even for those of us who remain convinced of the error of the decision.”