Northern Ireland news

Northern Ireland Protocol will act as 'parachute' even if there is no Brexit deal

Traffic crosses at Bridgend on the Derry/Donegal border. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

THE Northern Ireland Protocol will act as a "parachute" even if there is no deal in Brexit talks, the freight industry has said.

Under the protocol, trade to Britain and the EU is protected.

However, failure to reach agreement would result in "extra friction" on trade from Britain to Northern Ireland, said Seamus Leheny, policy manager for Logistics UK in Northern Ireland.

He said: "The Northern Ireland Protocol acts as a parachute for Northern Ireland in the event of a no-deal.

"But a no-deal will result in extra friction on Great Britain to Northern Ireland trade and raises issues on Northern Ireland to Great Britain.

"This is why we desperately need that deal."

Under the protocol, trade in goods between Northern Ireland and the Republic and other EU member states will continue unaffected, with no changes at the border, no new paperwork, and no tariffs or regulatory checks.

Official advice states: "Northern Ireland businesses will have unfettered access to the whole of the UK market as well as the guaranteed ability to trade freely within the EU single market.

"In addition, any approvals or certifications secured in order to place goods on the market in the EU will be recognised when seeking to place the same goods on the market in the United Kingdom - avoiding the need for additional approvals to access the UK market."

Ports on the English Channel have become busier over recent weeks ahead of the end of the transition period.

Manufacturing NI, which represents Northern Irish producers, said it had spoken with a business which paid 4,500 euro this week to bring a commodity from Germany to Glasgow.

It added: "On average, logistics costs increased £1,000 per journey as EU drivers can't or are reluctant to travel to UK due to the congestion currently at Channel ports."

Hauliers have also warned that large retailers could cut back on shipping to Ireland if checks created by Brexit cause delays.

Martin Reid, the Road Haulage Association's (RHA) director for Scotland and Northern Ireland, said it is "crazy" that industries are still in the dark about the nature of customs checks.

He said the situation at the port of Cairnryan, where many goods are transferred between Scotland and Northern Ireland, is unclear whether or not a Brexit deal is struck.

"Although we got some announcements on the Northern Ireland Protocol, the minutia and the detail are still to be decided, there's still more to come," he said.

"On one hand we've heard that some major retailers will scale back movements to Ireland.

"We've heard of one in particular who may not go near it for the first three months of the year.

"We've also heard contrary stories that it could increase the volume."

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