No-deal Brexit to involve checks on goods, says Tánaiste

Control of products moving between North and South to take place away from Border

Tánaiste Simon Coveney: “We are not going to put checks on the Border or close to it.”  Photograph: Henry Nicholls

Tánaiste Simon Coveney: “We are not going to put checks on the Border or close to it.” Photograph: Henry Nicholls


Tánaiste Simon Coveney has indicated there will be checks on goods travelling between Northern Ireland and the Republic in the event of a no-deal Brexit but insisted these would not take place on or near the Border.

Mr Coveney said work is “ongoing” between the Government and the European Commission on how to protect the European single market “and at the same time trying to protect the peace process”.

A no-deal Brexit, he said, would be “forced on all of us by the British government”.

“The truth is we will need to take some action somewhere in our economy to ensure that we are protecting the integrity of the products that are then going to be sold on off Ireland,” Mr Coveney said.

“We are not going to put checks on the Border or close to it and so what is under discussion and has been for a number of weeks now is how can we, in a real and verifiable way, ensure that the integrity of the single market is protected and we don’t have essentially an unguarded back door through Northern Ireland into the EU single market which in effect would take Ireland out of the single market against our will.”

Mr Coveney added the Government would not leave anyone in Northern Ireland “behind” in a no deal Brexit.

“We are not leaving anybody behind, I can assure you,” he said.

Contingency planning

The Tánaiste was speaking after the Government published its latest Brexit contingency planning update, which contained warnings on the consequences of Britain leaving the EU without a deal.

However, neither the document nor Mr Coveney detailed where checks may be carried out in such a scenario, with the Tánaiste saying a running commentary would not be helpful. He said work on a “range of issues” would continue over the summer with the European Commission.

He said the focus was on protecting the single market in a way “that limits the disruption of that and the costs of that for business” while also reassuring the EU about the standards of goods leaving the island of Ireland.

He would not be drawn on whether checks could take place in factories or on individual farms but he ruled out checks taking place in designated zones.

“If you start creating zones then you create new borders,” he said. Preparations for no-deal Brexit eased off weeks before the previous Brexit deadline in the spring because it became obvious that an extension would be sought by the UK and granted by the EU, he said.

Greater preparations

“In the build-up to October, this time it is for real, and we will need answers to these awkward questions.”

And he warned people and businesses against automatically assuming that because a Brexit extension was agreed in March then another would be agreed in October.

Ireland is more prepared now than it was then, he said, citing Rosslare Port as an example. If there had been a no-deal Brexit in March, then some facilities for extra checks in Rosslare would have been housed in marquees, he said, while more durable structures are now available.

He insisted that Ireland will not be “dragged out of the single market with a no-deal Brexit”.

“We also have a very real and fundamental obligation to try to protect relationships on this island and so the all-island economy in a no-deal Brexit, if that is the choice of the British government, will fundamentally disrupt the free movement of goods in a seamless way we enjoy today.

“Our job will be to ensure that our response to those dual challenges doesn’t pose a security risk, and therefore doesn’t create a security risk on the Border.”