Post-Brexit customs controls would mean hundreds of vehicles stopped every day
POST-Brexit customs checks that would see freight vehicles stopped at "trade facilitation posts" near the border would create huge problems for businesses across Ireland, it was claimed last night.
The Republic's customs authorities have indicated that up to eight per cent of goods would be subject to checks after the UK leaves the EU.
It has been estimated that more than two million HGV journeys take place between Ireland's two jurisdictions each year.
Revenue commissioner Liam Irwin told TDs and Senators on the Oireachtas finance committee that while efforts would be made to minimise cross-border customs controls, EU law dictates that some inspections would be required.
He told TDs that between six and eight per cent of freight would need to be checked, mostly for paperwork, but a "small number" of physical inspections would also be necessary.
Both the Irish and British governments have insisted there will be no hard border after Britain severs its ties with Brussels.
The revenue commissioner said the checks would probably not take place on the border but at "trade facilitation posts" located 10-15 kilometres from what will be a post-Brexit EU frontier.
He said there would also be random checks on vehicles carried out by mobile units but that customs declarations in general would be conducted electronically.
Mr Irwin ruled out a return to the border that existed before the introduction of the single market in 1992.
However, Seamus Leheny of the Freight Transport Association said he had concerns about the how the controls would impact on his members.
"On average we're looking at a minimum 6,000 HGV movements cross-border on a daily basis so if we're looking at 8 per cent of those vehicles having to be checked - there's potentially 500 to 600 vehicles actually having to stop and have goods looked at."
He said the checks would take time and cost money.
"It depends really on paperwork checks or maybe physical inspection of goods and the running costs for a 44-tonne lorry which typically travels cross-border is £1 a minute and those costs have to be covered by someone," he said.
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said the proposals highlighted the "disastrous impact" Brexit could have on the haulage industry and wider economy.
"Losses and delays of that level would be a disaster for the economy as the cost of transporting goods would increase which in turn would lead to higher costs for consumers."
She repeated her party's call for special status for the north within the EU.
The SDLP's Margaret Ritchie also said the commissioner's remarks gave an insight into how Brexit will impact on business and people.
"Our all island economy thrives on seamless cross-border trade – the imposition of customs checks on up to 8 per cent of freight is a significant barrier that will make companies think twice about their current arrangements in the north and the south," she said.
"What we have we must hold – that means maintaining free movement of goods, people and services across the island and with Europe."