By PJ Cunningham
Perhaps for the first time, the uncertainty around Brexit has hardened to reality about giving to each their daily bread, as in the Lord’s Prayer.
It isn’t politicians contriving to frighten consumers but the people who put bread on our tables.
When someone says that supermarket shelves could start to run bare within two days of a hard Brexit, it impacts at a far more basic level than talk of a backstop.
The Freight Transport Association of Ireland’s General Manager Aidan Flynn put it bluntly: “Ireland’s retail shops have no space to stockpile anything. They must be fed by distribution centres every day – and the UK is the major distribution hub for Ireland.
“Stores are seriously constrained. Everything will take days longer. And in the event of a no deal, there’s going to be absolute chaos for months.”
He went on to say how badly prepared we really are for what is now more likely than not – the UK has been a massive storehouse for goods for so long that Ireland has become dependent on it.
Mr. Flynn said retailers currently order goods from UK warehouses and expect the products to arrive by Irish Sea ferry and truck within 24 hours.
A no-deal Brexit would make such speed legally and logistically impossible. He questioned whether Ireland would even be able to bake its own bread.
“We don’t mill most of our flour in Ireland. It just shows how reliant we are on the UK for our food,” he explained.
A growing concern for Ireland is the fact that 80 per cent of truckers use the UK as a ‘land bridge’ to the European mainland.
This saves up to 50 per cent of the time it would otherwise take these 150,00 truckers or so to travel the whole distance by ferry.
Mr. Flynn said it is now essential that the Irish government establish more direct services between Irish ports and France, Belgium and Holland.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that with less than two months to go to Britain’s withdrawal, the Taoiseach and his cabinet should be unveiling a series of “substantive plans” to deal with this predicted supply chain crisis.
Mr. Martin said Irish people have a right to know what is being done.
The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is widely perceived has being unable to lead from the front on this issue – in contrast to his deputy, Tánaiste Simon Coveney.
Mr. Coveney is widely felt to have shown remarkable resilience in the face of the British storm.
Boris Johnson has huffed and puffed in a bid to get Europe to throw Ireland ‘under the bus’, but Coveney has marked him tight at every turn and visited European capitals to keep his EU allies on side.
The Green Party leader Eamon Ryan suggested a summit of Irish party leaders before the Taoiseach meets the British PM so that they might be properly briefed on just how and where Ireland stands.
Mr. Ryan urged that the Dáil be recalled from its summer recess because “there are no holidays in wartime.”
The Irish Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said that with ‘no deal’ scenario seeming more likely the Irish government needs to accelerate shield Irish businesses and (Irish) jobs from the full Brexit impact after 31 October.
“The Government must spell out what level of funding there is for (Irish) businesses vulnerable to Brexit,” he said.