Minister for Transport Shane Ross has described the potential Brexit impact as a ‘geopolitical, economic earthquake’.
The cancellation of flights from Donegal to Glasgow, Scotland, a 50 per cent per cent slump in second-hand car sales, and a slowdown in growth at Rosslare Europort in Co Wexford are among the effects of Brexit already being experienced.
That is according to delegates at a Department of Transport think-in on the effects of Brexit, in Dundalk on Monday.
More than 100 representatives from transport sectors engaged in a series of roundtable discussions on what Minister for Transport Shane Ross described as the “geopolitical economic earthquake” which was Brexit.
Mr Ross revealed a possible solution to the problem of cross-border goods traffic was to have lorry “depots” where customs clearance could take place, in a bid to deal with predicted traffic tailbacks many kilometres long.
“It is one idea I’ve heard mentioned in the department,” he said. He was responding after delegates said a “best possible” customs processing time of eight minutes for lorries leaving Dublin Port, would result in a tailback of 15 kilometres at peak times.
Similar or worse delays were anticipated at the Border with Northern Ireland where 326,000 vehicles crossed the Border in the northwest region alone each week.
A number of haulage companies also spoke of the need to improve the skills of staff on customs clearance requirements.
While transport companies Matthews Coaches reported buying 11 vehicles from the UK thanks in part to the drop in the value of sterling, the Society of the Irish Motor Industry said sales of second-hand cars had dropped by up to 50 per cent for the same reason.
Discussion facilitator Monika Wallace told the conference two weekly flights between Donegal airport and Glasgow had already been cancelled due to the drop in sterling, and negotiations over the future of the service were hampered by uncertainty.
She also said Rosslare Europort had reported a slowing down of growth because of the sterling differential and uncertainty about ongoing cross border arrangements.
The question of trade through Derry Airport, much of which is destined for the Republic was also raised as were the jobs of workers in the northwest who crossed the Border to Northern Ireland every day for work. Facilitator Ray O’Leary of the Department of Transport said it had been suggested by hauliers that electronic processing of traffic, as opposed to paper certification, should be explored.
Other issues raised by delegates included potential difficulties in getting fresh fish from Killybegs to France, should the route through the UK prove difficult and the future of the Commissioners of Irish Lights which was associated with lighthouses across the UK.
Facilitator Mary Lally said tree growers generally believed they were selling product to Irish buyers but it was not generally known that 75 per cent of such product went to the UK.
Niall Gibbons of all-island body Tourism Ireland said research carried out by Red Sea just last week showed 18 per cent of British people surveyed said the Brexit vote would influence their holiday choice in 2017. He said the number of travellers from Britain – to all destinations – would fall by 2.5 per cent with Ireland particularly exposed. But he said tourist numbers coming from “mainland Europe” were catching up on Britain, with numbers from America being particularly strong.
Mr Gibbons said tourism interests would “have to fight” just to keep market share from Britain. Remaining competitive would be key, he said