Businesses unaware of ‘border-like’ preparations to ship between GB and NI

Many businesses have not realised that they need to do “border-like administration” when shipping goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland – because of Government communication that there will be no border in the Irish Sea, MPs have been told.

Elizabeth De Jong, the director of policy at Logistics UK, said that border problems had been more pronounced in Northern Ireland, than in the port of Dover.

Last week, there were reports that one in four lorries arriving in Holyhead in Wales to go on to Northern Ireland were not carrying the right documentation.

“There has been generally a higher lack of awareness in businesses – the exporters and importers – that border-like administration is required for Great Britain and Northern Ireland, even though a border does not officially exist,” Ms De Jong told MPs on the Treasury Select Committee.

“The main messages were about there not being a border, but in fact you still need to do border-like administration.”

Some vital software has also been running slowly, she reported.

In Kent, things are working better, where lorry drivers must apply for a permit before crossing the border.

“The Kent access permit, we suspect, is working quite well in that it was designed partly to reduce flows into Kent where paperwork for the border was not yet ready. People are accessing Kent when they have self-declared they have the paperwork,” Ms De Jong said.

“Currently the biggest reason for not being able to make your crossing is not having a negative Covid test and being sent away to get one.”

Last week, volumes were about 40% lower than this time last year, so the border infrastructure has been more than able to cope, Ms De Jong said.

“Because the volumes are so low… we have not really been able to test those systems, so currently there is enough staff.”

Less than 3% of those arriving in Dover are not “border ready”, she added, although there are still big challenges to get the paperwork, which needs major changes in business procedures.