Brexit is leaving Northern Ireland's businesses hanging in the balance
Video report by ITV News Correspondent Richard Pallot
Words by Economics producer Mariah Hedges
Framar Health has been in the family for three generations. Justin Maconaghie’s dad opened the South Belfast health food shop 40 years ago. It has withstood the Troubles and multiple recessions but Brexit may prove to be the businesses' biggest obstacle.
The shelves are beginning to look bare. Justin’s best sellers are out of stock and no one knows when the next delivery will be.
"This isn’t just a small delay on an order. This is no orders right now. The door has been closed," he explains.
Justin’s main suppliers are based in England and due to the new Brexit trading arrangements, they will not deliver to Northern Ireland.
These frustrations are mirrored by large retailers. Although the UK’s major supermarkets are exempt from the new EU requirements until April, their supply chains have already been disrupted.
M&S, Tesco, Asda, Co-op, Iceland and Sainsbury’s have warned that unless the EU extends the grace period there will be fresh shortages on Northern Irish shelves and the system would become "unworkable".
Haulers have been warning of this for more than a year. Extensive customs checks on UK goods, seen as imports from outside the EU – mean delayed consignments and often nothing to transport. Without these vehicles returning, Northern Ireland exports would fall apart but hauliers are losing tens of thousands a pound a week.
As well as drivers and vehicles stuck, there are huge problems with groupage – the process of grouping together goods from different manufacturers. Each set must be now resealed and recertified at every pickup, a logistical nightmare.
Peter Summerton, MD of McCulla Ltd, described his anger at the situation.
He said: "I’m shocked at how bad it’s been in the first few weeks. I can’t believe we are in the position of needing SPS checks – that’s the certificates for health for food stuffs and customs for moving basic food commodities from one region of the UK to another."
One of Peter’s truck drivers Albert told me it had taken six and a quarter hours to clear customs from Birkenhead to Belfast when it would usually take around ten minutes.
Today the PM described the issues facing supermarkets and retailers in Northern Ireland as "teething problems". Michael Gove said the supply chain issues leading to food shortages in many Northern Ireland supermarkets were being overcome.
There was some good news though for another sector – a punitive 20% tax rise on used car sales has been dropped by the government. Marty Russell, co-owner of C Russell Auto Sales, had his supply of second hand cars stopped overnight. He told me he was cautiously optimistic about today’s announcement.
"Yesterday I thought my business was gone. This may have saved it. I need to find out more information but I have no supply of cars at the moment. This should hopefully give my suppliers the confidence they need," he said.
One problem appears to have been ironed out but many remain which won’t be as simple to solve.
Northern Ireland did not vote for Brexit but the ramifications are, so far, being felt here more than any other home nation.