Traders fear chaos on Brexit front line over the long haul

Hannon Transport, which has bases in Northern Ireland, the Republic, the Netherlands and France, is likewise incorporating customs help into its offering. Donard McCann, who manages Brexit preparations for the company, says the choice was a matter of survival: “If our customers don’t have products to move, we won’t have trucks to move.”

Like the smaller hauliers, Clare Guinness, who until August last year was chief executive of Warrenpoint, the province’s second-biggest port, cautions that smaller ports will not have the resources to compete with Belfast Harbour from January.

“Because of Warrenpoint’s location on the border, because the destination of a lot of the goods is ultimately the Republic of Ireland and because it’s situated right between Belfast and Dublin, traders could just send their goods to Greenore Port, which is right beside and would obviously be at a competitive advantage,” she explains.

“Abandoned buildings are being demolished and roads realigned, but Warrenpoint is still challenged space-wise. If there are going to be officials on the port, the infrastructure and understanding are still not there.”

Liz Truss, the trade secretary, warned on Wednesday in a letter to Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, and Michael Gove, the cabinet secretary, that unless ports were ready to carry out checks, there was a risk of smuggling goods into the UK.

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