The only guarantee from all the current Brexit confusion is shipment delays in all directions to, from, and through the UK in early 2021, whether there is a deal struck or not.
That is according to a Cork-based Brexit expert, who has warned Irish exporters to brace for “potential chaos” at ports.
Mike McGrath of Arvo Procurement Consultancy, who has spent almost four years presenting to businesses across the country on the barriers that Brexit will cause, told the Irish Examiner it is very difficult to plan “with any confidence” for the January 1 changes in trading relationships.
“In recent days, the mood is positive with regards realising a free trade agreement, even though the UK wishes to achieve this within a week while the EU suspect it will take until month-end.
“Either way, it will only provide two months to prepare for this future trading relationship, especially as it will create one of the most unique trading borders in the world, whereby there will be two trading principles across the Irish sea.
“The one guarantee from all this confusion is shipment delays in all directions in early 2021. The UK Government has acknowledged that there will be daily queues of up to 7,000 trucks in Kent.”
This has forced many businesses to dust off their Brexit plans, he said.
“In fairness to Government agencies such as the Health and Safety Authority, Revenue, and Enterprise Ireland, they have all started to deliver a series of webinars and updated information with the practicalities of trade with the UK next year.
“Irish access to EU markets through the UK remains the highest priority for Irish exporters, so it was worrying to learn this week that the operators of Dover Port are still awaiting Brexit infrastructure funds to ensure it is Brexit ready for the potential queuing chaos in January.
“The NI Assembly is also seeking vast funds from the UK Government to deal with Covid, at a time when the UK Exchequer has its highest debt level in almost 50 years,” Mr McGrath said.
It is very difficult to plan with any confidence on the measures to put in place now for the January 1 changes in trading relationships, according to Mr McGrath,
“Once the specifics of the EU-UK trade agreement finally emerge, businesses will be able to calculate the specific risks to their business and work with their key suppliers and customers through the new trading environment.
“In recent days, we have seen a large increase in activity with regard to Brexit risk management and UK/NI supplier conditioning for this post-Brexit world.
“Unfortunately businesses have many “ifs/buts/maybes” in these scenario plans, as there is still insufficient details emerging on the divergence of EU standards and regulations from those in the UK/NI. It is Groundhog Day-like, once again, as we are repeating advice to clients that hopefully we will know within two weeks the specifics.”