The Government will enter negotiations directly with the European Commission about where to situate customs checks for cross-Border trade in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Tánaiste told a business event on Wednesday.
“We are not going to allow Ireland to be dragged out of the single market by default as a result of Brexit. That means, in a no-deal Brexit scenario scenario, finding a way to get an agreement with the European Commission to protect the integrity of the shared single market.”
He warned that checks on the southern side of the Border on goods coming in from the North would be required to eliminate any risk that exports from the Republic would face checks on continental Europe. He also said it would be up to the British government whether it wanted to institute customs checks on goods crossing the Border into the North from the Republic.
“We face difficult choices in the context of how we introduce a checking system [on the southern side],” said the Tánaiste.
“[Checks must be introduced] somewhere away from the Border, for obvious reasons, to protect the integrity of the single market, and to reassure other countries we don’t have an open back door into the single market through Northern Ireland.”
He said the Government’s discussions with the Commission have a “dual mandate” of protecting the peace process and protecting the single market.
“We recognise the reality that Ireland will have a responsibility to protect its own place in the single market. That will involve some checks. But I can assure you we will try to do that in a way that limits the risk. And we will try and do it away from the Border.”
He criticised the British government for not bringing forward alternative proposals to the backstop, an fallback element of the UK’s withdrawal terms that deals with customs regulations and which is designed to keep the Border open in all circumstances.
Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, wants the backstop removed from the agreement. This has been rejected by the State and the EU, which has called on the UK to come forward with workable alternatives.
“This process can’t make any progress unless British government comes forward with proposals that make sense so we can interrogate them,” the Tánaiste said .
As he launched EI’s guide, Getting Your Business Brexit Ready, Mr Coveney said businesses were being “naive” not to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.
“There are 3,000 companies in Ireland with UK trade worth more than €100,000 annually who haven’t yet contacted Revenue for a EORI number (registration required to import or export with a non-EU country). That’s madness.”