Hauliers are suffering a double whammy, with businesses being disrupted because of issues with Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.
It’s been revealed Northern Ireland truck drivers will have to have evidence of a negative Covid test to travel to France directly from Ireland; increasing numbers of drivers working for NI companies are now using direct ferries from Rosslare to Cherbourg to avoid virus-related delays through Britain.
Just before Christmas France banned UK lorry drivers from entering the country for two days in a bid to stop the spread of a new coronavirus variant; the measure was lifted on condition drivers had a negative Covid test taken less than 72 hours before embarking on their journey to France.
However, the French government has now extended the travel restrictions to lorry drivers with UK passports who are resident in Britain and Northern Ireland travelling on ferries from Ireland.
Seamus Leheny, Logistics UK Policy Manager-NI, says it is very unfair for Northern Ireland drivers.
“It seems more political rather than practical. It’s just another bit of red tape and a major inconvenience for businesses to try and get drivers tested before arrival into France.”
He added: “You could be a haulier in Newry and you could be leaving today for France and then a haulier from a couple of miles across the border in Dundalk could be on the same boat, but you would need a test and they don’t. It doesn’t seem fair or practical.”
It is understood drivers with an Irish passport driving a Northern Ireland lorry will also need to be tested.
Cross Border Disruption
Meanwhile, Elizabeth de Jong, Director of Policy at Logistics UK, has been speaking about reports of cross border disruption to NI-GB trade.
“Issues which have occurred at the GB/NI border are due, in part, to businesses not having a full understanding of the new border requirements for moving goods to and from Northern Ireland. With the announcement of a new trade deal with the EU to the end of the Transition period, some confusion is inevitable, but it is now vital that government steps up communication with industry to ensure that loads can be dispatched with the correct paperwork and declarations.
“Logistics is adaptable and resilient and wants to do the best for its customers. However, the logistics sector cannot prepare alone: traders, transport companies, government agencies – both here and in the EU – all need to make sure that their processes and understanding is sufficient.
“Freight from GB to NI has seen particular challenges: the GVMS system used for all GB-NI freight was only fully launched on the 23 December, while guidance on GB to NI freight providing a grace period for parcels and post was published on the 31st December.
“Logistics UK has written to Michael Gove and Lord Agnew with three key asks from the logistics sector, which require urgent clarification to ensure that goods can continue to move smoothly across the UK’s borders with the EU. We have asked for clearer communication of the administrative requirements, akin to the Border Operating Model for GB-EU trade.
“We have also asked government to urgently apply simplifications and implement derogations and mitigations for all goods from NI to GB, and also to immediately restart the NI Protocol working groups, which do not yet appear to be functioning. These groups are vital to delivering longer-term solutions and avoid major disruption as volumes of traffic increase.”