Brexit will "significantly disrupt" the 150,000 trucks that travel through Britain annually taking goods between Ireland and the EU, a Government-ordered study has found.
The so-called UK “land bridge” is “strategically important” to the Irish economy, according to the report released last night, commissioned by the Department of Transport.
Without access to it, travel times for traders between Dublin and France will double to 40 hours for direct roll-on, roll-off services, and triple to 60 hours for freight services which lift goods on board.
The use of ports in Wales and in the east of England is more expensive than direct ferries to the Continent, but its "superior" times are essential for major industries, according to the Irish Maritime Development Office.
“It is a strategically important means of access to the single market that is favoured by traders in high-value or time-sensitive goods because it offers significantly faster transit times than alternative routes.”
Many Irish businesses – not just those selling agri-food and seafood, and others where delivery time and shelf life is critical, will be “adversely affected” if journey times are lengthened. The car industry will be among the worst hit.
Three million tons of goods are transported by trucks over the UK land bridge between Ireland and the EU every year. In all, the affected trade is worth € 100 billion.
Customs or border controls, if required by Brexit, will increase times and costs for Irish importers and exporters that will “undermine” their competitiveness , the report’s authors said.
Transactional, institutional and administrative costs will increase, and restrictions on the free movement of goods will add to transit times if transport links are complicated by Brexit, it warns.
Some shipping companies have already increased direct sailings to the Continent, while all Irish ports have begun to prepare for worst-case scenarios after Britain pulls out of the EU.
Calling for Ireland’s access to the UK land bridge to be “protected” in the Brexit negotiations, the Irish Maritime Development Office said technological solutions should be used “where available” to offset any negative impacts.
“Irish interests are best protected by maintaining the status quo to the greatest extent possible,” it said, adding that the Government should seek EU financial aid to boost non-UK transport links.