The State will never return to the type of trading relationship it enjoyed with Britain prior to Brexit, a leading customs official said on Monday as he warned of potential disruption for exporters.
Speaking at a briefing held at Dublin Port, Tom Talbot, head of Revenue's customs operations, said ports were dealing well with post-Brexit border checks on goods coming from Britain into the Republic.
Just over two months since the introduction of border controls on imports following Britain's exit from the European Union, Mr Talbot said traffic was still significantly lower than for the same period a year ago, which he attributed to a number of factors including stockpiling ahead of Brexit and the impact of store closures due to the Covid lockdown.
He said that currently about 80 per cent of all freight from Britain is being “green-routed”, meaning they can immediately proceed on their journey. Of the other 20 per cent, most of this is “orange-routed”, meaning document checks are required, while about 4 per cent is “red-routed”, indicating a physical check is necessary.
Mr Talbot said Revenue was happy with the level being achieved so far and said there would never be a day when all UK traffic could be green-routed.
“In practical terms the requirements that now apply to trade with the UK mean that there never will be a scenario that 100 per cent of goods ... will be able to arrive through the port seamlessly as they did when Britain was part of the EU,” said Mr Talbot.
“The concept of frictionless and seamless trade with the UK ended with its exit from the EU in January. Customs and other formalities are now part of customs with the UK and these by their nature increase costs and can cause delays,” he added.
New figures show that from January 1st to February 28th there were 50,800 freight vehicle movements into Ireland from more than 870 ferries from Britain with over 2.6million import declarations processed. During the same period there were 46,500 movements from the Republic to Britain. And some 320,000 export declarations.
Mr Talbot warned exporters of the need to be aware of new import controls on all animal or plant products into Britain from the start of April.
Irish businesses exporting goods to Britain have been fulfilling EU customs exports requirements since January 1st. However, Mr Talbot said they need to know the possible impact of the new controls now rather than at the time they are introduced.
Speaking at the same briefing, Hazel Sheridan, head of import control at the Department of Agriculture, said companies were adapting to the new way of trading.
“Our sense is that things are beginning to settle down. The clients we are dealing with on a regular basis are bringing in loads and are getting more familiar with what the requirements are and we are also getting familiar with their businesses and the challenges they face,” she said.
"There is plenty of capacity in the system so we are ready for any surges in activity that there might be," Ms Sheridan added.
Eddie Burke, an official at the Department of Transport's Brexit unit, said the volume of trade with Britain was still 50 per cent below normal levels.