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Extra cost of post-Brexit paperwork sees NI exports routed via Republic instead

Michael McHugh, PA
·3-min read

Time and money is being wasted chasing unnecessary paperwork for businesses exporting from Northern Ireland to the EU, a leading cargo firm said.

Belfast Port and Northern Irish hauliers are losing out because of red tape associated with duties which do not need to be paid, Quay Cargo Services said.

The firm is based in Belfast and traditionally organised exports to the continent using the Great Britain land bridge.

Since the end of the post-Brexit transition period it has routed shipments using the more costly route via the Republic of Ireland then direct to France.

Manager Gary Stewart said: “These are our livelihoods and it is not just Quay Cargo and the 16 people we have, it is all the other drivers.

“It is all those local organisations and hauliers that are losing out, and on top of that you have Belfast Harbour losing out.

“It is ridiculous to me that we are doing this to protect something that is not even jeopardised.

“The paperwork systems we are being asked to adhere to are like something from the 1980s.

“It is not just electronic paperwork they need, it is original paperwork.”

He said to move a trailer from Belfast to Paris via the UK would require a bond issued to protect the authorities against non-payment of duties, requiring the necessary documents.

A general view of Belfast harbour freight operations. Picture date: Saturday February 27, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Brexit Export . Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
A general view of Belfast harbour freight operations. Picture date: Saturday February 27, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Brexit Export . Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

All these documents need to be original copies, which are issued from registered addresses.

On entering France, the same bond and documents need to be discharged at a customs office, or by an agent who is registered to be able to do that.

No duties are ultimately payable.

Mr Stewart said: “This archaic system, is designed to protect against outstanding duties/taxes.

“But there are no duties collectable, even if the cargo were to remain in Great Britain, so why is the road haulage industry being asked to do this?

“Not only is there a cost to obtaining such documents, but time is wasted in physically chasing paperwork.

“We need a more pragmatic system, to avoid such a waste of time, money and wasted additional mileage.”

Mr Stewart’s firm has developed an extensive client portfolio representative of every major business sector in Northern Ireland including international market leaders in the healthcare, heavy engineering and the food and drink industries.

It operates services to France, Italy, Germany, Spain and the Benelux countries.

Mr Stewart wrote to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of MPs venting his frustrations with the system.

He said he understood why any Government would want to know what their trade statistics are.

“I believe that this can be accomplished, by completing a simple electronic export declaration.

“No bond would be needed for these, because there is no duty to be protected.

“Can common sense be brought to bear on this subject and can we get a system that facilitates trade, rather than inhibits it?”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “We know that some businesses are facing challenges with specific aspects of our new trading relationship, and that’s why – in addition to the £20 million SME Brexit Support Fund – we are operating export helplines, running webinars with experts and offering businesses support via our network of 300 international trade advisers.

“Businesses unsure about what they need to do can contact HMRC’s helpline for imports and exports. The number is 0300 322 9434 or businesses can speak to an adviser online.”