Irish businesses are using up to 20 new trade routes to move goods to mainland Europe as a result of Brexit, according to the head of business lobby group Chambers Ireland.
Ian Talbot said businesses here were increasingly avoiding the UK land bridge, using direct ferries to Europe as an alternative to avoid customs hassles.
Using the traditional UK land bridge – Dublin-Holyhead-Dover-Calais – now took up to 15 hours longer, he told the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade on Tuesday.
“Another interesting dynamic is how trade routes have changed with an unprecedented number of at least 20 different route calls, especially for direct Roro (roll-on roll-off) in Europe which used the land bridge “, did he declare.
New routes include: Dublin-Rotterdam-Zeebrugge; Rosslare-Dunkirk; Rosslare-Bilbao; and Cork-Antwerp-Zeebrugge.
Many companies are now also sourcing goods and inputs from EU countries at higher prices due to uncertain delivery times from Britain, Mr Talbot said, noting that direct trade with the EU increased by 13% or 4 billion euros last year.
The EU committee has been convened to discuss the “trade-related aspects” of the Northern Ireland protocol.
Mr Talbot said that while the protocol offered Northern Ireland a unique opportunity to simultaneously be in and out of the EU for trade, there were challenges in its practical operation.
“There is friction in getting goods from Britain to the island, and many micro businesses lack the resources or expertise to understand the new requirements and therefore find them a hindrance. to trade,” he said.
Imports from Great Britain
While trade links between Northern Ireland and the Republic have strengthened following Brexit, this does not compensate for the sharp drop in imports from Britain, he said.
Figures from the Central Statistics Office show that imports from Britain to the Republic fell by around a fifth last year, while exports in the other direction increased.
“Irish businesses are finding that supply chains in Britain are weak and delivery time can be uncertain, as trade from Ireland to Britain continues to grow,” Mr Talbot said. .
“Our friends at the UK Chambers of Commerce tell us that their smaller members, particularly those in ICT, are pulling out of the Northern Irish market due to customs complications (for most of the reasons why Northern Irish businesses find the arrangements problematic customs officers),” he said.
“It also appears that some of the biggest UK companies are also pulling out of the Irish market. This unfortunately gives reason for some commentators to criticize the protocol,” he added.