Delays at the land bridge between Britain and mainland Europe after Brexit will be "hugely significant" for Irish exporters, German Irish Chamber of Industry and Commerce chief executive Ralf Lissek has said.
An estimated 53 per cent of Irish export volumes travel to the rest of the EU via Britain. In 2016, €15 billion of goods were exported to the UK, and a further €45 billion passed through the country destined for the rest of the EU, according to a report by EY.
The report, Economic Footprint of the Channel Tunnel in the EU, found that exporters valued the security provided by the tunnel, as well as the ability to transport refrigerated freight, and the "significantly lower" embarking and disembarking times than alternative methods.
Irish food and drink exports combined were worth €11.4 billion in 2016, with a significant proportion travelling through the Channel Tunnel to reach mainland Europe.
“Irish food exporters often use the UK land bridge via Channel Tunnel to access EU markets due to the perishable nature of the goods,” noted the EY report. “Time to market is critical for fresh produce to maximise value. Fresh food can lose as much as 5 per cent in value for every hour delay in the delivery time. As a result, Irish food exporters predominantly use the Channel Tunnel for its certainty, reliability and speed.”
On the subject of delays due to increased border controls, Mr Lissek said “every disturbance will cost money” and called on Irish authorities to reduce dependence on the tunnel.
“It is in the UK’s interest to negotiate in the right direction, but you are in a much stronger position if you have alternatives so you don’t depend so strongly [on Dover],” he said.
“At the moment, about 80 per cent of all goods going to continental Europe go through the land bridge. That is an enormous dependency.”
The view was echoed by Irish Road Haulage Association president Verona Murphy who said the matter was "a huge concern" to her members.
“It’s a huge concern if you can imagine the traffic that goes through there,” she said. “We would have about 500 trucks a day at the very least travelling that route. You can imagine it’s going to have a huge impact on exports to mainland Europe.”