Boris Johnson insists Irish Sea border trade is ‘going so smoothly’ – as MPs are told hauliers are losing £100,000 a week
As further evidence emerged of how the border is leading to a growing number of GB companies no longer supplying Northern Ireland at all, the Prime Minister was asked about the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions.
South Belfast MP Claire Hanna put it to Mr Johnson that he should be straight with the people of Northern Ireland and accept that a border does exist in the Irish Sea.
In a curt response, Mr Johnson said that there is now an increase in goods flowing between Larne and Cairnryan “because it’s going so smoothly” – avoiding entirely the heart of the problem, which is goods flowing in the opposite direction.
Earlier, NI Secretary of State Brandon Lewis had adopted a similar argument, saying that “goods continue to flow effectively, and in normal volumes, between Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.
However, North Antrim MP Ian Paisley put it to Mr Lewis at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that the first 20 days of January had been “an unmitigated disaster for Northern Ireland”.
He said that “haulage companies are haemorrhaging £100,000 a week” and he was aware of one haulier which has just laid off 10 people.
Today the BBC revealed that one of the UK’s biggest health food businesses said that shipping organic products from GB to the island of Ireland is now a “virtually impossible at scale”.
Customs declarations which businesses were told would take 30 seconds are taking 12 hours, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State said.
Louise Haigh said that staffing numbers were insufficient, with lorries returning empty to NI from GB and suppliers opting out of services to Northern Ireland.
She said: “It is incumbent on all of us in the UK and indeed in the EU to minimise that.”
Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Rachel Reeves yesterday hosted a meeting with hauliers on problems with the Irish Sea trade border.
She said the trouble sending goods from GB to Northern Ireland presented a “stark” picture.
The Labour MP added: “These are British businesses, British citizens being caught up in this psycho-drama.”
Haulier Chris Slowey said: “We are paying for this and we did not vote for Brexit.
“We need our customers to realise that Northern Ireland is still open for business.”
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