Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Transport Robert Troy TD has warned that ‘invisible customs controls’ on the island of Ireland will still add significant costs for the transit of goods to and from Ireland and the rest of the world.
Deputy Troy made the comments after UK Brexit Secretary David Davis confirmed over the weekend that his Government is working towards implementing an ‘invisible customs border’ between Ireland and the UK. This new arrangement would involve a number of technical solutions to monitor transit traffic, such as the tagging of containers, number plate recognition and ‘trusted vehicle’ schemes.
Deputy Troy said, “It’s worrying that there appears to be an acceptance even at this early stage of the negotiations that there will be a customs border imposed on the island of Ireland. While the use of technology might reduce the need for physical border control installations, it’s nonetheless important to highlight that an invisible border will still impose significant costs on Irish imports and exports.
“I firmly believe that the Irish Government cannot be drawn into discussions on technical solutions to border issues between Ireland and the UK. It is far too early in the negotiations to be making significant concessions on customs issues. The fast, efficient and low-cost movement of freight is essential to the Irish economy.
“A customs border, even an invisible one, will have a significant impact on not only the movement of goods to and from the UK, but also from continental Europe via the UK land-bridge. The Government needs to be upfront and clear during the negotiations that our interests are best served by maintaining a fully liberalised freight and aviation market between the EU and UK. This may require special arrangements to be put in place.
“There can be no early concessions on this point. Last week I met with officials from the European Commission and there appears to be little understanding of the importance of access for Irish cargo to and from the UK. All focus in relation to Ireland seemed to hinge of the importance of the border with Northern Ireland. However the border with Northern Ireland is just one factor for Irish transit, albeit an important one.
“Over 70 percent of cargo goods transport from Ireland by truck, ship and air to continental Europe, the Middle East and Africa go through the UK. Any customs border, whether it is ‘invisible’ or not, will add significant costs and time delays to our exports. It will also add significant costs to our imported goods, including food and other everyday items coming from, or simply channelled through, the UK.
“It’s concerning that the Government is yet to respond to the commentary coming from the UK in relation to the imposition of a customs border. The Government needs to set out our stall in relation to the need for special transit arrangements for Irish cargo accessing other countries markets via the UK landbridge. Minister Ross in particular is, as usual, asleep at the wheel,” concluded Deputy Troy.