Verona Murphy: 'A hard Brexit would be much worse than a recession'

Verona Murphy fears that Brexit could send many hauliers to the wall. Picture Dylan Vaughan.
Verona Murphy fears that Brexit could send many hauliers to the wall. Picture Dylan Vaughan.

Sarah Slater

Hauliers are the lifeblood of Irish agri-business, with 37pc of the country's produce going by truck to the UK and another 34pc to Europe, mostly via land bridge through Britain - so what's bad for the lorry driver is usually bad for the farmer too.

And when the president of the Irish Road Haulage Association talks about the destruction Brexit could wreak on her sector, farmers should be concerned.

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Verona Murphy describes Brexit as being "much worse than a recession".

"There is a palpable fear caused by the uncertainty and the currency fluctuations," says Ms Murphy, a farmer's daughter who is the managing director of DruMur Transport in Co Wexford.

"We are working in a very uncertain environment - rates are inaccurate due to sterling instability, in many cases causing cash-flow problems."

The prospect of a no-deal Brexit is particularly alarming for the hauliers.

"The only plus is that the uncertainty of 'when' is at an end, so decisions can be based on the here and now and in line with a hard Brexit," says Ms Murphy.

"The minuses are multiple, because of the extra workload created by the UK now not being regulatorily aligned with Ireland and the EU.

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"This will be very taxing financially and physically - many companies will not have the means to deal with the burden. The time it will take to sort this and catch up will inevitably mean a loss of business.

"The low profit margins many companies currently trade under mean it will be unlikely they will survive this type of disruption."

A return to a hard border would present numerous problems.

"We have been without physical border infrastructure across the EU for more than 20 years now, and we have developed all types of regulation, eg employment laws, driving times, mechanical and structural standards since then where this type of impediment and delay was not envisaged," says Ms Murphy.

"The old adage of 'time is money' is very much at play post-Brexit; we no longer have the (capacity) to deal with delays.

"Brexit will set Ireland back in a time warp.

"The technological solutions that Boris Johnson says are readily available just don't exist.

"Any customs delays, incompetency due to lack of use, training and extra tariffs and costs will make many products cost-prohibitive and see businesses unable to compete as a result.

"The most worrying factor is a collapse of the Good Friday Agreement, and a return to illicit behaviours.

"This will make all legal law abiding entities suffer two-fold as the burden of suspicion increases in these instances.

"The backstop is entirely necessary. . . it is after all the safest way to ensure the Good Friday Agreement is safeguarded, an essential element to all of Ireland's interests, not just Northern Ireland's.

"Brexit will be the biggest upheaval Ireland has seen since we became part of the EU (in 1973).

"It will be nothing like a recession, it will be much worse, as the UK will not recover from the effects for years, and that also affects us greatly because of the geographic closeness and market supply.

"We will, as a society, (have to) pull together to get through this and we as a nation are resilient but in this instance Ireland's financial needs post-Brexit will be like that of a new entrant to the EU.

"We'll need to reassess many things that we took for granted before."

Indo Farming

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