Ross's Border depots idea is a 'worst-case scenario'
Government officials are looking at the idea of having customs depots along the Border for commercial vehicle checks after Brexit, Transport Minister Shane Ross has said.
The depots would allow goods vehicles to go through a customs procedure, the minister said.
Mr Ross was speaking on the margins of a Brexit conference focused on the transport sector, which heard that, as a result of the UK vote to leave the EU, some eastern European workers in Ireland were returning home, two flights had been cancelled between Donegal and Glasgow, there had been a slowdown in regional development, and a reduced rate of growth at Rosslare Europort.
"If people and goods are stopped physically [at the Border], it's going to cause real, real difficulties, so we have to be ready for that," Mr Ross said. He said having an electronic border was an option.
But he added: "I think there's another idea of depots, so that ordinary individual travellers can go one way, but there'll be goods depots where they'll [commercial vehicles] have to go through some procedure.
"It's only an idea I've heard floating around my department."
Mr Ross said the idea would be "not to inconvenience the tourists and other people like that". A spokeswoman for the Department of Transport later stressed the idea was just one being considered "in a worst-case scenario", but wouldn't give further details.
More than 100 attended the department-organised conference, including state agencies, business and haulage representatives.
Each table was asked to give their views on a series of questions, including the impact that Brexit is already having on businesses in the sector.
One table said that up to 18pc of total revenues had been negatively impacted, while concerns were also raised about access to labour, with claims that some eastern European workers were already leaving.
Currency fluctuation was repeatedly cited, while worries about customs checks and delays at the Border were also cited. Some 326,000 people cross the Border in the north-west region in a week, the conference heard.
The impact on the Irish motor industry was noted, as sales of used cars have slumped.
There were also calls for a Brexit minister.
"I take the point that people are saying that the Government must up the tempo," Mr Ross said.
"I think the tempo is quite fast at the moment and some would say that it's too fast, considering we don't actually know quite where we're going to land."