empty shelves | 

Northern Ireland supermarket shortages due to protocol checks and HGV driver issues

It is estimated around 25,000 lorry drivers left the UK following Brexit.

(Jon Super/PA)

Jamie McDowell

Northern Ireland supermarkets are feeling the brunt of protocol checks and HGV driver shortages with some running out of stock.

The Food and Drink Federation has said sales from large businesses in Great Britain to Northern Ireland have dropped by 10pc.

Smaller businesses have also reported a larger drop in sales to Northern Ireland, and there has been an average 13pc fall across all sizes of businesses.

The Northern Ireland protocol which came into effect after Brexit means food goods arriving in the country must first be subject to a series of checks, with some arguing this has created an ‘Irish Sea Border’.

It also means Northern Ireland has remained in the EU single market for foods.

This, coupled with a lorry driver shortage in GB, is thought to be behind the number of empty shelves in supermarkets in Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, the UK government is working with the EU behind the scenes to try and negate difficulties caused by the protocol, which was put in place to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

In the Republic of Ireland, RTÉ says traffic of containers containing goods from GB to the country has reduced by over 20% in the first nine months of 2021, while shipments from ports outside Great Britain have increased by over 30%.

Lorry driver shortages across the UK have contributed to the impact the protocol has had on small and large business, with new recruits understood to be leaving the haulage industry due to long shifts, low pay, overregulation and poor facilities while on the road.

Some HGV drivers have left the industry citing the impact working conditions have had on their mental and physical health, with some saying they have to work ‘dangerous’ 15-hour shifts and other missing important vaccination appointments due to the long hours.

It is estimated around 25,000 lorry drivers left the UK following Brexit.

It is understood the entire industry is short somewhere in the region of 90,000 HGV drivers across the UK, with industry experts warning this, together with Irish Sea checks and the continued pandemic, could see problems develop for Northern Irish shoppers in the run-up to Christmas.

As a result, firms like Tesco have been offering £1,000 ‘signing-on bonuses’ to new HGV drivers.

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