No Brexit positives for road hauliers
As Britain prepares to leave the European Union in March, reporter Brendan Keane looked at the impact this is set to have on businesses in Co. Wexford
Members of the Irish Road Hauliers Association (IRHA) have grave concerns about the possible implications of Brexit especially in view of the fact that with the proposed March deadline fast approaching the British government seems to be in turmoil with no agreement yet reached on an exit strategy.
The president of the IRHA, Verona Murphy, said there is real fear about repercussions for the transport industry here, especially if Irish Ferries goes ahead with its plan to pull services out of Rosslare Harbour, and the knock-on affect that will have on hauliers operating out of Co. Wexford.
Ms Murphy, who is also co-owner of Drumur Transport Ltd, said most of the problems stem from the fact that there is still no deal.
'That's the big problem,' she said.
'Everyone was banking on the deal being accepted,' she added.
She agreed that options are limited for British Prime Minister Teresa May and that an extension of Article 50, to allow time to look for a new deal, or another referendum are among the only options that would give the embattled politician hope but the likelihood of either - especially a second referendum - is highly unlikely.
In addition to the current 'no-deal' situation Ms Murphy said fluctuation in the Sterling is also a major cause of concern.
At present €1 is worth £1.10 and if the value of the British pound decreases further - which is very likely to occur under the current circumstances - it would be a disaster for haulage companies here.
'If you deliver a load you might not get paid for that for a few weeks and in that time the value could fluctuate enormously and that could have very serious repercussions,' said Ms Murphy.
She gave an example of a load delivered in November and paid for in December that ultimately was a transaction that operated at a loss because of fluctuation.
'Sometimes you might not get paid for a load for two months,' she said.
'That ultimately means it costs more for the haulier who has to cater for the fluctuation in Sterling,' she added.
Ms Murphy also suggested that many British people don't realise what they're in for when Brexit finally happens and said there will be some similar repercussions here.
'The cost of living will go up and the standard of living will go down,' she said.
'We will not see the full effect until Brexit actually happens,' she added.
'There are no real positives to Brexit. English people want it but they have no idea what they are in for.'
She said profit margins are minimal enough at the best of times, but if a haulage company increases its rates to cover increased costs it won't get business.
Ms Murphy said the latter point is particularly relevant for smaller operators.
'Goods will become more expensive because the increased costs will be passed on to customers and consumers,' she said.
She said the collapse of the mushroom industry was a good example of the negative affect that Brexit is having here.
Ms Murphy said the Government needs to adopt an holistic approach to dealing with the Brexit fallout and she was critical of the decision by Irish Ferries to cease services out of Rosslare which she described as being one of the most important ports in the country - especially for the entire south east region.
'The N25 is extremely busy and there are still Stena Line services out of Rosslare which is good but if you have to go through Dublin it's an added cost and added time, and that really impacts on hauliers,' she said.
She said New Ross is one of the busiest towns in the country in terms of trucking with thousands of trips being organised to-and-from the town each week.
'There would be an additional cost of around €500 for a truck having to go to Dublin from here instead of being able to use Rosslare,' she added.
When asked if she saw any potential positive aspects to Brexit Ms Murphy said the reintroduction of duty free might be a positive but added that the negatives far outweigh any possible positives.