More time and answers sought to cope with crash-out Brexit
Planning for a no-deal UK exit intensifies as EU bureaucrats return from summer break
Rosslare Europort in Co Wexford: details around the various types of solutions under review in Dublin and Brussels for Border checks in the absence of infrastructure remain under wraps. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA
EU bureaucrats swap their holiday novels for no-deal Brexit contingency papers this week as planning for a potentially messy UK departure begins (again) in earnest after the annual Brussels summer shutdown.
At 73 days until Brexit Day, the feelings among those in Irish industry preparing for the growing likelihood of a UK crash-out ranges from deep frustration at the lack of operational expertise among Irish officials to cope with such a scenario to sympathy with the Government for having to deal with the heightened political rhetoric coming out of the new Boris Johnson administration in London and the vacuum it has created.
The dire consequences of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without the withdrawal agreement – laid bare in the UK government report on Operation Yellowhammer leaked to the British media over the weekend – has raised alarm at the level of Irish preparedness and capacity of officials to turn paper plans into practical actions.
It has led to demands from the business community for more detailed plans from the Government covering everything from alternative shipping routes to Europe to avoid chaotic no-deal congestion at English ports to a wider net for financial support for Irish companies and traders affected by the upheaval caused by Brexit.
Irish small and medium-sized businesses, the companies most reliant on trade with the UK, want solutions that are not based on increasing their levels of debt, said Neil McDonnell, chief executive of their representative group, Isme, explaining why the Government’s Brexit loan scheme has not been a success.
The area of biggest concern – the future of the Border and the trade that crosses it in the event of a no-deal Brexit – remains the area surrounded with the greatest uncertainty.
Discussions between officials in Dublin and Brussels over where checks on goods moving north-south over the Border are set to intensify as they attempt to solve the dilemma around how to protect the EU’s single market, while avoiding anything that could be construed as hard border infrastructure reappearing on the new frontier between the EU and the UK on the island due to come into force on November 1st.
The exact details around the various types of solutions for non-border border checks – from inspections on agricultural and food produce leaving farms and agri-food processing plants to the possibility of the complex food and animal health checks required by the EU being carried out at the Irish Sea – remain under wraps.
The absence of clear, practical solutions has left some in Irish business seeking a more tangible demand in the uncertainty: more time to deal with the fallout from a potential no deal.
“The reality is that the Government doesn’t know and it hasn’t been agreed and business doesn’t know so it is impossible to plan,” said Fergal O’Brien, director of public affairs at business group, Ibec.
“Whatever happens, time is going to have to be afforded. The only credible outcome if we face a no deal is that we have a transition to a no deal. This is not going to be straightforward. It doesn’t seem credible that it can be done in 10 weeks.”