The government are set to enact emergency planning powers to ensure that Rosslare Europort is Brexit-ready. With the clock rapidly ticking on a hard Brexit, it emerged last week that the Office of Public Works (OPW) had agreed terms for the purchase of a 16 acre site in Rosslare Harbour which is to be used for border inspections in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
According to the land registry, the site is currently owned by haulage firm Baku GLS, after they purchased it back in 2015, but it was previously a Renault car distribution centre owned by well-known business man Bill Cullen.
It is understood that the site is being purchased for Revenue Commissioners officials and Department of Agriculture veterinary inspectors to carry out customs, food and animal health checks on goods coming into the port on lorries from Britain.
A spokesperson for the OPW confirmed that terms had been agreed for the purchase of the site, but stated that 'until the legal formalities have been completed, it would be inappropriate to comment further.'
'This work is part of a series of measures that the Government is taking, both nationally and in conjunction with the EU, to prepare for the UK's departure from the European Union,' he said.
It is understood that the site, which sits some 2km from the port itself, is only being viewed as a short-term solution to the border checks issue with the clock ticking to the UK's departure from the EU at the end of March.
Sources have stated that work is due to get under way on creating the temporary customs post this summer and that the government aim to have measures in place at all Irish ports within 18 months.
In the longer term, plans are afoot for a single centralised compound at Rosslare Europe with a total of 13 inspection bays, parking for up to 35 trucks and a dedicated border control post for live animals. However, this could be some years away yet.
With the OPW remaining tight-lipped until the sale of the 16 acre site in the village goes through, it is unclear exactly how the customs checks will work, however, it is believed that certain trucks etc coming in on the ferries will be obliged to stop at the site on their way through Rosslare. Those who fail to comply would do so under the threat of prosecution and severe penalties.
While welcoming any investment in Rosslare, local councillor Ger Carthy is far from convinced by the action being taken by the government on the port.
'The way I see it, they're now being reactive as opposed to proactive,' he said. 'What were getting now is this piecemeal solution without the proper structure required in the port. It seems they've just picked a plot and they intend to throw down porta-cabins on it and hope for the best.'
They've ignored the harbour development plan and they've failed to invest in the port for years. Where is this chunk of funding that we're told is coming from Europe for Rosslare?'
Cllr Carthy also had some big questions for Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tánaiste Simon Coveney.
'Where is the Tánaiste?' He asked. 'What plan has he got for Rosslare Harbour? What kind of investment is going into the port? What's all this secrecy about?'
Similarly, Fianna Fáil councillor and general election candidate Lisa McDonald criticised a lack of information from the government.
'We know that the OPW has bought a 16-acre site at the port for customs checks and inspections, however, it will be well after the March 29 deadline before these customs posts are up and running,' she said.
'At least 13 inspection bays for trucks, as well as parking and a border control post for livestock is needed.'
'The lack of information from government is worrying, given how close we are to the March deadline.'