It goes without saying that the Irish transport sector will be adversely affected by the UK’s decision to leave the EU. While all areas within the transport sector will be affected, none quite to the same extent as the freight sector. To this day it is still unclear what transit changes will be made following Brexit, but any physical, technical or regulatory regimes are likely to be considerable.
The introduction of a “hard border”, which would include custom and border controls, is the main concern for the freight sector, along with keeping changes in existing technical standards and regulatory regimes to a minimum. The introduction of tariffs or duties is feared as this may result in significant volumes of freight being diverting away from the UK, decreasing the level of Ireland’s exports. There is also the prospect of non-tariff barriers, such as bureaucratic and legal requirements, that could hinder Irish road transport operators seeking to access the UK and Northern Ireland.
It has been suggested that Irish freight, that currently transits the UK, on its way to and from other countries, could travel directly by sea. However this assumes that there is sufficient capacity at Irish ports to handle the increased volume of traffic, which there currently isn’t. It also ignores the role of logistics in supply chain management in today’s world. Additionally, the fact that Ireland is an island off an island, longer sea routes would mean much longer freight times. Transporting a freight consignment by sea can take up to four times longer than the landbridge time, depending on the sea route chosen by Dublin Port.
And so a time of uncertainty is upon us as we wait for negotiations between the UK and the EU over Brexit to conclude. Time will soon tell, but the overall objective must be to ensure the least amount of change in the trading environment in which Ireland operates and flourishes.