Dublin Port plans for Brexit uncertainties

Figures show decline in tourist numbers coming from Britain, but trade remains solid

The new Irish Ferries’ cruise ferry Ulysses arriving into Dublin Port. Photograph: Eric Luke

The new Irish Ferries’ cruise ferry Ulysses arriving into Dublin Port. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Back in 2016 a significant coterie of economists, including Paul Krugman, forecast an instant recession in the UK if it voted to leave the EU, a prediction that proved wide of the mark.

In reality the UK economy has proved surprisingly resilient given the storm clouds hanging over it. The UK is still growing relatively strongly, unemployment remains at a near-record low, while pay growth is strengthening again.

The slide in sterling aside, the impact of Brexit was always going to be something of a slow burn, not least because nothing has actually changed yet in terms of the UK’s trading position.

Latest data for Dublin Port shows there has been a fall-off in tourist traffic from Britain, both passengers and cars, as there has been in France, perhaps evidence of caution among British consumers.

However, trade in terms of imports and exports remains strong. Also, there’s been a significant pick-up in used-car imports as consumers here ditch the purchase of new models in favour of buying used premium brands in the UK.

Whether these trends prove temporary and insignificant or morph into something bigger is perhaps down to where the Brexit negotiations go. That said, the port’s decision to begin erecting customs infrastructure signals that change on some level is inevitable.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar hasn’t discounted the possibility of the UK crashing out without a deal and has begun contingency planning for such a scenario, which demands the hiring of customs officials and veterinary inspectors.

“It includes preparing legislation, it includes IT systems and includes preparations to install physical infrastructure at our ports and airports, but not along the land Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic,” he said.

Either way, Brexit’s impact on Ireland is far from clear.