A no-deal Brexit could result in one lorry every 30 seconds being subjected to checks at the border in Northern Ireland, according to the FTA.

Seamus Leheny, FTA policy manager, predicted “paralysis at the border” if the UK crashes out of the EU later this year without a deal and therefore with a disparity between UK and EU food regulatory standards.

His warning followed the publication of a report, commissioned by Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy, that offered “a sobering reflection” of the impact of a no-deal, with severe problems for NI businesses and the construction of border inspection posts to monitor trade in animal and food products.

Leheny said the report revealed what many in the region have long been concerned about: that significant numbers of business would relocate to the Republic of Ireland.

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He said: “A no-deal would certainly be very difficult for GB, I wouldn’t underestimate the economic turmoil it would cause, but eventually the economy would evolve.

“In Northern Ireland I think the effect would be longer lasting and change the dynamics of businesses here.

“More and more freight is crossing the frontier because lots of businesses have decided to open up depots on either side of the border, or there have been a lot of mergers.

“When I speak to businesses here, very few trade with the rest of the UK that are solely Northern Irish businesses.

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“Something like 70% of freight moves between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with ‘intermediate products’; that is, not a finished product.”

Leheny said members want a customs union single market, with no difference between EU and UK food regulatory standards:

“Different standards would mean sanitary controls introduced,” he explained. “If you have regulatory controls on the Irish border, then on the main road between Belfast and Dublin alone, between 6am and 9am, it would mean lorries stopped for checks every 30 seconds crossing the border. You would be overwhelmed.

“There would be paralysis on the border. It would mean Operation Stack permanently in place.”

The Department for the Economy said its report would be used as part of its EU exit planning and it would be shared with interested stakeholders.

Image: PA News