The Irish Freight Transport Association has written to the Taoiseach warning of huge disruption in the coming weeks as the impact of Brexit fully takes hold of trade between Ireland, the UK and Europe.

The letter, seen by RTÉ News, warns of disappearing supply chains, empty supermarket shelves and rising unemployment, and calls for a six month adjustment period.

The communication warned that one consignment of pharmaceutical products had missed both a ferry and airline slot because of paperwork problems. 

The letter to Micheál Martin paints a stark picture and adds to a growing number of warnings that an initial slump in the volumes of trucks moving goods in and out of Ireland to the UK and across the land bridge to continental Europe, as well as pre-Christmas stockpiling, have masked the true impact of Brexit.

That impact could now properly hit when trade volumes rise to their true levels.

In response, the Taoiseach said that an additional 1,500 people have been employed to manage new post-Brexit arrangements. Despite this, he said, it was inevitable that Brexit, even with a trade deal, would lead to disruption. 

He said that his Government is working with companies on this specific issue. "We're going to work very hard indeed to help and be of assistance to our companies."

However, he said that the situation underlines the negative practicalities of Brexit, pointing out that Ireland has gone from processing 2 million customs declarations annually to 20 million.

Mr Martin said roughly 70% of haulage is not experiencing delays, but there are still significant issues there that must be addressed.

According to the Freight Transport Association, new customs and food safety formalities are causing lorries to remain stranded at Dublin Port, or to remain stuck in the UK.

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The letter describes a growing backlog of goods, from car parts to electrical goods, to furniture, clothing, and food supplies all sitting in depots because there are not enough agents to process the declarations correctly. 

The net result, according to the letter, is that companies operating tight profit margins will cease trading. This will create unemployment, supply chains will disappear, and the consumer will be left with less supply and increased prices. 

The association said the problems have been made worse by the fact that there are not enough ferry spots on direct routes to continental Europe.

The letter cites one example where a consignment of pharmaceutical goods was unable to board a ferry to Ireland because the operator could not create a pre-boarding notification to enter the ferry terminal.  

After a four-hour delay the consignment subsequently missed a flight option from Heathrow Airport.

FTAI General Manager Aidan Flynn said it is "unbelievable" that 30% of goods are being inspected, which he described as being "unsustainable". 

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, he said the industry is not able to handle the new documentary and regulatory requirements. 

Mr Flynn said while some issues may be ironed put with more time, there is significant pressure on the haulage industry which operates on "very, very tight margins, who really don't have any time to waste, as we try and understand what the new requirements are." 

Head of Brexit Strategy with Revenue Laura Slattery said there are a number of challenges facing trade post Brexit and that in terms of the level of preparedness from businesses, it is a "mixed bag".

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, she said volumes of trade are lower with some businesses partially prepared and "underestimated" what was required in the post-Brexit reality.

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"Revenue were out last year clearly setting out what the preparation needed to be. Some businesses did that and some are experiencing a relatively seamless changeover", she said.

She said Revenue is working on a 24-hour basis at the ports, as those who have done the least amount of preparation are trying to resolve and get prepared in real time as they are moving goods, which is a "massive challenge".