Britain left the European Union’s single market and customs union on New Year’s Eve, introducing a raft of paperwork and customs declarations for those businesses that import and export goods with the bloc. In order to keep the border open between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland, a separate agreement was struck that requires a regulatory border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
Officials from Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) have stated that the Brexit deal for Northern Ireland is an ‘unmitigated disaster’, calling for its suspension. At a hearing of the Commons Northern Ireland committee, MPs heard evidence from hauliers and retailers about the problems the new arrangements were causing compared to EU membership.
MP Ian Paisley Jr, the DUP's communities spokesperson who sits on the committee: "They've basically told us that the protocol and its workings, on day six, is an unmitigated disaster. That's one of the reasons I was against it, because I think a blind man on a galloping horse could have told you it was going to be an unmitigated disaster."
Paisley argued that the UK should invoke Article 16 of the agreement, which allows for its suspension in the case of "serious" economic, social, or trade disruption that is "liable to persist". It comes amid revelations that some British businesses have stopped delivering to Northern Ireland because of the extra bureaucracy Brexit has created.
According to independent.co.uk¸ no business group giving evidence at the committee on Wednesday endorsed the suggestion that the Northern Ireland protocol should be suspended, though many painted a picture of a very difficult situation.
Seamus Leheny, policy manager for Northern Ireland in the Logistics UK group, said the new customs demands were hitting companies throughout the supply chain. “One operator sent 285 trucks to GB, they only got 100 of those back to Northern Ireland,” he told reuters.com. “The knock on effect is they can’t service NI (Northern Ireland) exports going back to GB because they’ve got lorries and equipment sitting in England waiting for loads that aren’t ready yet.”
UK-Ireland lorry traffic at Holyhead port slumps
Lorry traffic through Holyhead, the UK's second largest port, has fallen to about one-third of its usual capacity. Since 1 January, drivers have had to provide specific paperwork to take goods between the EU and the UK.
Ian Davies of Stena said he was confident traffic would pick up again.
The paperwork arrangements have come about as part of the new trading relationship with the European Union following Brexit.
Drivers also have to provide a negative Covid test when travelling between France and the UK and between the UK and Ireland.
For decades, trucks from mainland Europe heading for Ireland have used the UK as a "land bridge", often picking up loads on the way back.
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