UK could renege on Ireland’s truck land-bridge to EU, TD warns

Commercial traffic in Dover took three hours to go 1.8 km with new migrant checks

Lorries queue on the A20 near Dover in Kent after a police operation in the port resulted in traffic congestion on nearby roads and the deployment of Operation Stack which uses part of the M20 to marshal goods vehicles travelling towards the Channel. Photograph: Aaron Chown PA Wire

Lorries queue on the A20 near Dover in Kent after a police operation in the port resulted in traffic congestion on nearby roads and the deployment of Operation Stack which uses part of the M20 to marshal goods vehicles travelling towards the Channel. Photograph: Aaron Chown PA Wire

 

The UK could renege on commitments to allow Ireland access to the EU via the “land-bridge” and put more than €18 billion in trade at risk, the Dáil has been warned.

Independent TD Verona Murphy said that commercial traffic in Dover port on Tuesday took three hours to travel 1.8 km because of the introduction of migrant checks.

The land-bridge transit arrangement allows Irish truck drivers carry EU products through British roads and ports to the EU mainland.

The Wexford TD said the UK intends to breach its own international obligations “in order to safeguard national interests of the UK” and it could “pull the rug out” from under Ireland on transit through Britain.

“The UK’s actions could signal the end of the land-bridge and the transit arrangement.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said however that “we’ve had no indication whatsoever of any negativity around the land-bridge or any attempts to undermine the importance of the land-bridge to Ireland’s markets”.

The Common Transit Convention allows EU goods to move through the UK without going through full custom and import/export formalities and there had been full discussions to ensure no interruption, he said.

Ms Murphy pointed out that the UK’s “reputation to deal in good faith has been irreparably damaged worldwide and it doesn’t appear to be taking a feather out of them”.

There was now “grave concern that the UK will also renege on the land bridge, the transit arrangement for Irish trucks to go via UK roads and ports to the EU”.

Irish truck drivers under regulation have 15 hours to complete their journey but on Tuesday they “had to spend an extra nine or 10 hours in the UK”. That meant the regulations “kaput and the land-bridge is defunct”.

More than 150,000 trucks a year transport goods worth €18.2 billion to Ireland.

A significant number are carrying fresh produce like beef and lamb, including products from three Wexford factories with 1,100 employees.

Ms Murphy warned that “we’re putting ourselves in the hands of the UK where they can pull the rug out from under us and say ‘you’re not going to be able to use the land-bridge’”.

She called on the Taoiseach to safeguard the €18 billion trade and to invest the “necessary €100 million or €150million in Rosslare” to put in direct ferry services, to get goods “to mainland Europe and that would circumvent the three hour delay” at Dover.

Mr Martin stressed that “we get no sense from the UK government that there is in any way going to be any sort of undermining of such trade.

“They’re still adamant that they want a comprehensive trade agreement and they don’t want disruption.”

He said “whatever it takes we’ll be undertaking in terms of the capacity that’s required”. The view was that “we have sufficient capacity but this is something we will continually monitor”.

Significant investment is ongoing in Rosslare Port with €30 million being spent on customer facilities, port infrastructure and technology and a planning application had gone in.

“We need to get what’s already planned, done” he said. “We just don’t do it overnight.”