Ian Paisley’s claim of 27% rise in costs due to protocol ‘conservative’, hauliers say

Statistics quoted by two DUP MPs about the increase in the costs of transporting goods from Britain to Northern Ireland are a significant underestimate, according to a body representing hauliers. Ian Paisley said the Brexit protocol was bumping up prices by 27% due to “transport and energy” costs. Sir Jeffrey Donaldson also claimed in the BBC leaders’ debate last week that the Irish Sea border had led to price rises.

On Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show yesterday, Mr Paisley said the cost of living was a “crucial issue” and the protocol was driving up prices. He claimed: “The protocol is adding 27% additional costs to everything in Northern Ireland, because of the additional costs associated with the protocol. “That’s the cost of transporting things over and the added costs the protocol adds to those transport costs.

“If you think costs of living are high in GB, people in Northern Ireland add another 27% because of higher energy costs because of the protocol. If we don’t get this fixed, we’re going to have a continuing downward spiral of even worse costs.” While the 27% referred to growing transport costs in 2021, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) said the figure was out of date, and the increase was now higher.

The organisation’s John Martin said the 27% increase in transport costs since the establishment of the Irish Sea border had not been obtained through a formal survey, but was arrived at from what was being reported by RHA members and major hauliers. He added this was “a conservative figure”. Even taking the spike in fuel prices into consideration, “the reality is that it’s much more expensive now”.

“We’re talking now about a 34% to 35% increase, including staff to deal with the addition bureaucracy, additional miles because of difficulties accessing Dublin Port, and delays at various collection points in Great Britain, as most foods need to be certified there,” he added. While increases vary according to load, Mr Martin said before the protocol was instigated the cost of bringing a pallet of foodstuffs from London would have been GBP100. Now it costs well over GBP200.

“Baked beans, for example — to get a health certificate, the cost is around GBP150 per pallet as a consequence of the protocol,” he said. He said one haulier moved around 5,000 trailer loads from Britain per year and each load would average around 18 health certificates. At GBP150 per certificate, that had added GBP13.5m to the company’s costs.

He added those costs were “not a consequence of Brexit, they’re a consequence of the protocol”. He warned costs were set to soar again next year when the Movement Assistance Scheme and Trader Support Service, which help businesses get their agrifood goods into Northern Ireland, end. Mr Martin said: “If this is the path the Government intend to follow, some (food retailers) will have to take a view on the viability of their business in Northern Ireland.”

During the BBC leaders’ debate, Mr Donaldson had claimed “consumers in Northern Ireland are now paying on average 4% more per item than they are in Great Britain at the moment”.

“When you look at dairy products, that rises to 8%, and when you look at chilled convenience goods, it rises to 19% more for those products,” he said.

However, the Kantar report he was quoting from was later published, and showed that, on average, consumers here pay 8% less for groceries than those in Britain.