By James Ward, PA
Ireland will not see the same problems with shortages of lorry drivers being witnessed in the UK, the Taoiseach has said.
Micheál Martin said preparations made by the government in advance of Brexit had worked and that the UK had failed to make similar plans.
Amid warnings from hauliers that Ireland is facing a shortage of between 3,000 and 4,000 lorry drivers, the Taoiseach insisted: “We’re steady as she goes.”
Speaking from the Europort in Rosslare, Co Wexford, Mr Martin said: “Suffice to say from my briefings over in the port and here that the preparations that Ireland put in advance of Brexit have worked.
“And it was done against a fairly tight timeline.
“Now there are wider issues, more than just Brexit afoot, within the UK.
“I’m not so sure the same preparations have occurred in the United Kingdom.
“I think the migration issue within the UK, the decision to, for example, create obstacles and barriers to people coming from Europe to work in the UK is a factor across the board. We don’t have that here.”
Mr Martin said Ireland would “take nothing for granted”, and highlighted the need for more training courses and programmes for HGV drivers and the haulage industry.
“We need to be flexible in terms of people coming in to Ireland to want to work in this sector,” he said.
Asked if Ireland could avoid the situation seen in the UK, where driver shortages have seen petrol pumps run dry and left supermarket shelves empty, Mr Martin replied: “Yes, that is our ambition, that is our determination. Yes, we can.”
He said: “We’re steady as she goes, and as far as we’re concerned, we’re not getting the same impacts as are currently happening in the UK.”
Mr Martin said the UK’s problems were down to more than just Brexit, but that its departure from the EU had made the situation worse.
“There’s no doubt that the bounce-back of the European economy and the global economy in terms of Covid-19 has created a whole lot of disruption to supply chains,” he said.
“So to be fair to everybody, there’s a broader issue than just Brexit.
“But I think the Brexit situation has exacerbated the situation in the UK, in terms of personnel for HGV drivers and so on, and indeed other sectors of the UK economy.
“We don’t have that sort of issue here. We’re part of the European single market, the free movement of people and so on.
“That’s a help to us in respect of any shortages that arise in certain sectors.”