No deal Brexit could leave North’s economy ‘in tatters’, says transport association

Clarity needed for British commercial vehicle operators to ‘keep trade flowing freely’

A lorry crosses the Border past a Border Communities Against Brexit billboard in Newry on October 9th, 2018 Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty

A lorry crosses the Border past a Border Communities Against Brexit billboard in Newry on October 9th, 2018 Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty


A no deal Brexit would “unravel” the North’s economy and potentially “leave it in tatters” because of its dependency on established all-island supply chains, the UK’s Freight Transport Association (FTA) has warned.

Seamus Leheny, policy manager for the association in Northern Ireland, said the latest cross-Border traffic figures suggest that on average 13,000 goods vehicles cross the border every day, which Mr Leheny said works out at around 541 every hour.

He said this is equivalent to “a large freight ferry fully laden every 15 minutes, 24/7, 365 days a year”.

Mr Leheny said latest confirmation from the North’s Department for Infrastructure that commercial vehicle operators in Northern Ireland will have “unrestricted access” to the Republic in the event of a no deal Brexit is a “promising step”.

But there remains a lack of clarity on what the position will be for British commercial vehicle operators which the FTA said must be dealt with to “keep trade flowing freely to the Republic of Ireland”.

In a new paper published on Wednesday by the King’s College London research initiative – UK in a Changing Europe, also funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council – Mr Leheny said a “holistic approach” is needed in relation to Northern Ireland and the Brexit negotiations.

He cautioned that in a no deal Brexit scenario Northern Ireland “stands to face serious obstacles both for freight and manufacturing compared to Great Britain”.

“This is due to the nature of the all-island economy and its supply chains, and to fully understand how Northern Ireland stands to be affected we need to look at two different trade flows,” Mr Leheny added.

Supply links

He said both Irish Sea freight, which is “lower volume but higher value”, and cross border trade “which is higher volume but lower value”, needs to be examined in the context of Northern Ireland and Brexit because supply chain links are a “major element” of cross border trade.

“A recent study by InterTrade Ireland concluded a very significant share of cross-Border trade is accounted for by firms that trade simultaneously in both directions. These two-way traders make up around 18 per cent of firms, but accounted for over 60 percent of exports and over 70 per cent of imports,” Mr Leheny said.

According to the FTA this means the percentage of intermediate products in all imports from Northern Ireland to the Republic is higher compared to almost every other sector than trade in the same sectors from the rest of the UK.

“For example, a company could transport ingredients or components across the border several times before the finished product is completed in Northern Ireland, and is then ready for export to consumers in Great Britain.

“Naturally the intermediate products will be of lesser value compared to the completed product, hence the disparity in value of goods crossing the Irish Sea compared to the land border,” Mr Leheny added.

Read it hereSimon Carswell’s story about Brexit, the truck driver and 20 tonnes of frozen chicken. To truly understand Brexit, try hauling €60,000 worth of food from Northern Ireland to England via Dublin