Brexit: British hauliers pause transport of goods to EU and NI

Problems with documents the ‘main reason’ lorries being turned away from ports

The check-in area at Holyhead port in Wales. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty

The check-in area at Holyhead port in Wales. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty


Confusion over new customs and border procedures have made some British hauliers temporarily stop moving goods to the European Union and Northern Ireland, MPs at Westminster have heard.

Elizabeth De Jong, director of policy at Logistics UK, said incomplete or incorrect documentation was the main cause of lorries being turned away from ports, particularly those serving Irish Sea routes.

“Last week about 25 per cent of lorries arriving at Holyhead, slightly more at Stranraer, didn’t have the right documentation. Information was received late and in piecemeal form but it’s not systems issues,” she told the treasury committee.

“A number of companies have paused because they’ve realised that their understanding of the systems or preparation for the systems or what they thought they needed to do hasn’t allowed them to transport things as easily as they might have thought.”

Ms De Jong said there were more delays at depots than at ports, as lorries picked up loads and found that the paperwork was inadequate. Lorries without the right documentation cannot travel through Kent to reach Dover, so delays at Britain’s busiest port have been limited.

She acknowledged that some businesses in Britain have stopped shipping to Northern Ireland but she expressed confidence that problems would ease as the new procedures became more familiar.

“I’m hoping they’ll soon become confident. We may need a little more of this trial period before they do become confident. One of the concerns if we can’t address the friction is that companies in Great Britain will lose out if we don’t address this and we don’t get everything working quickly to Republic of Ireland companies or more locally sourced produce as well,” she said.

‘Economic vandalism’

Among those most badly affected by delays in shipping goods have been Scottish exporters of shellfish, which needs to reach importers in the EU within about 24 hours. Ian Blackford, the Scottish National Party (SNP) leader at Westminster, said leaving the EU was an act of economic vandalism against Scotland.

Mr Blackford said the government at Westminster should provide a multibillion-pound compensation package to soften the blow of changes to customs and exports that the Scottish government said would cost billions of pounds every year.

“It is completely unforgivable that Scotland is being forced to pay such a devastating high price for Boris Johnson’s extreme Tory Brexit deal, with mounting costs, red tape and disruption,” Mr Blackford said.

“The Tories must apologise to Scottish businesses and pay compensation to Scotland for the long-term damage they are doing to our economy – costing us billions in lost trade and growth. This disastrous Tory Brexit was a completely unnecessary act of economic vandalism, which has been inflicted against Scotland’s will.”

The days after the end of the post-Brexit transition has seen billions of pounds in equities trades move from the City of London to EU financial centres. But chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak said the City was on the brink of a leap forward similar to the Big Bang in the 1980s.

“If you look at the history of the City stretching even further back than that, it has always constantly innovated, adapted and evolved to changing circumstances and thrived and prospered as a result. And I think it will continue to do that,” he told City AM.