No-deal Brexit checks to avoid hard border will need more staff

EU would provide technical aid for customs training but costs of personnel to fall on State

 EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier: EU and Irish officials will find “operational solutions” to check goods moving south into the Republic while maintaining an open border. Photograph:  Charles McQuillan

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier: EU and Irish officials will find “operational solutions” to check goods moving south into the Republic while maintaining an open border. Photograph: Charles McQuillan

 

Avoiding a hard border in the event of a no-deal Brexit would likely require a significant increase in the number of customs officials carrying out checks under plans being explored.

Government sources have said that any increase in staffing required to carry out “factory-gate” customs checks away from the Border at company premises would not be supported financially by the EU.

EU and Irish officials are working on organising customs checks in a no-deal scenario where checks would be carried out in the least disruptive manner and as much as possible, if at all, away from the Border.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said during a visit to Dublin that EU and Irish officials would find “operational solutions” to solve the problem of checking goods moving south into the Republic while maintaining an open border but he acknowledged it was “not an easy task”.

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‘Modest’ costs

The commission has said it is ready to make additional resources available to Ireland, both technical and financial, to address any additional challenges.

Government sources expect the cost of any additional increase in customs officials to manage any checks required away from the Border to be covered by the State.

“The costs of that are modest and will have to be met by each member state. We retain 20 per cent of the extra tariffs collected so that will cover it anyway,” said one source.

The State is already hiring an additional 600 officials to handle the increased workload faced by the Revenue Commissioners to deal with additional post-Brexit checks at the ports and airports.

Speed of export

As part of no-deal preparations, the EU has said technical and financial assistance from the EU can be made available such as the training of customs officials.

Large agri-businesses managing cross-Border trade have said that checks at company premises could avoid hard infrastructure at the Border but warned that they would require more customs officials and a faster approvals process by the Revenue Commissioners to prevent any slowdown in the speed of export.

The Government is pushing for the island of Ireland to be treated as a single animal and plant health unit in order for more complex livestock and animal food checks – the so-called sanitary and phytosanitary checks – on imports from Britain to be conducted at ports and airports in the Republic and Northern Ireland.

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