Northern Ireland news

No-deal Brexit could sign 'death certificate' for north's haulage firms

Lorries form up on the A256 outside Dover earlier this month for the second of two trials at the former Manston Airport site in Kent of a government plan to hold lorries in the event of post-Brexit disruption at the channel ports. Picture by Gareth Fuller, Press Association

A NO-DEAL Brexit could 'sign the death certificate' for haulage firms in the north following confusion over permits to drive in the European Union.

An industry spokesman said the deadline for lorry drivers to apply for licences to drive in Europe in the event of a no deal has passed.

Seamus Leheny, from the Freight Transport Association in Northern Ireland, said around 1,200 annual permits were offered across the UK - only around 60 of these may be given to firms in the north.

Mr Leheny said the British Department for Transport had assumed permits would not be needed for drivers to cross the border but the Irish government refutes this.

"I've checked this with the Irish government, they know nothing about any such deal to not require permits into the Republic of Ireland," he told the BBC.

"If we need to overcome that, we will need to put the Permits Bill back into parliament and we will be asking MPs to vote to give permits to Northern Ireland."

Under no-deal proposals published by the European Union in December, UK haulage companies can continue to carry goods into the bloc provided EU operators get the same rights.

However, this temporary measure will end on December 31 this year.

Mr Leheny said if 60 permits are given they "won't be worth the paper they're written on" because 13,000 lorries currently cross the border every day.

"If we go into a no-deal Brexit and we rely on these permits, we're signing the death certificate for many logistics companies and obviously a lot of companies rely on the movement of goods," he said.

Mr Leheny said some firms were setting up businesses in the Republic or recruiting more staff to deal with EU controls.

"People are trying to mitigate it, but something like this, you simply can't plan for it," he said.

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