Quiet new year for post Brexit freight branded ‘calm before the storm’

An uneventful New Year’s Day has been described as the calm before the storm for the freight sector, as the UK began its first day outside the EU customs union and single market.

While the final weeks of the post-Brexit transition period had been a frantic time as the government and EU negotiators scrambled to agree a last-minute deal and businesses faced uncertainty as the deadline approached, the first day of 2021 itself was quiet.

However, according to leader of the Labour group on Dover Council Kevin Mills, the port was always likely to experience an uneventful day on a bank holiday and the next working week will reveal the challenge freight logistics solutions providers face.

He told Kent Online: “I suspect this is calm before the storm, but I hope and pray we don’t get to the storm.

“It was always going to be quiet today – there seems to be more TV camera crews down there rather than lorries.”

“It will start to pick up over the next week or so and I would have thought in a week’s time we’ll actually see what impact it will or won’t have.”

The key difference for freight firms exporting goods to the EU via Dover and other UK ports will be the extra paperwork and permits required. 

Under the new agreement maintaining a seamess land border with the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland now has a different relationship to the EU to the rest of Britain, meaning new checks are now due on goods passing between Ulster and mainland Britain.

Echoing the words of Councillor Mills, Nigel Moore of Ulster-based McBurney Transport told the Belfast Telegraph the “full negative effect” of the new checks and bureaucracy was never likely to be on display on the first day of the year. 

Among those fearing the effects of a de facto border in the Irish Sea is the president of the Irish Road Haulage Association Eugene Drennan, who forecasted “mayhem” at the port of Dublin over the coming months.