State to use emergency orders for Brexit checkpoints

Brexit briefing papers show legal complications of managing a crash-out scenario

The Government has ruled out leasing ships in the event that the route to mainland Europe is affected by Brexit. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

The Government has ruled out leasing ships in the event that the route to mainland Europe is affected by Brexit. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times


The Government faces legal and logistical complications in managing a crash-out Brexit and is relying on emergency orders to bypass normal planning procedures to prepare, internal Government documents reveal.

Work on a wide variety of transport issues in the event of a hard Brexit – ranging from assessing the legality of the State leasing ships to safeguard supplies, to reviewing whether Rosslare Port can take private investment – are disclosed in briefing papers prepared for Minister for Transport Shane Ross and released under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act.

The Government has ruled out leasing ships, taking ownership of, or running, ferries in the event that the British “landbridge” route to mainland Europe is affected by Brexit because it “could give rise to claims of interference in the market” and complaints under State aid rules from shipping companies, the papers say.

The Department of Transport warns in the records of risks to existing food supply chains from disruption on key landbridge transit routes. It notes Irish hauliers transport “very time-sensitive” food products that “may not be suitable for diversion to direct sea routes” from the State to mainland Europe.

New post-Brexit controls will mean that “at any one time” up to 120 lorries – the equivalent of up to 2km of traffic – arriving on dawn ferries would face additional controls before leaving Dublin Port and are likely to depart the port “during peak morning traffic”.

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Planning powers

To build new port facilities for a surge in checks required on UK imports after a potential no-deal Brexit, the Government will rely on “emergency orders”, exempting construction from normal planning procedures.

The Office of Public Works said the Government has already used these emergency powers under the Planning Acts for works at Dublin Port and a further order is likely for facilities planned for Rosslare.

The records say that for permanent facilities, regulations will be brought forward to “tailor” requirements and timeframes for environmental impact assessments, and checks under EU rules, to protect birds and habitats. The OPW said it was “fully satisfied there are no environmental issues”.

The new Brexit checkpoints under construction at Dublin Port. Photo: Photograph: James Forde/The Irish Times
The new Brexit checkpoints under construction at Dublin Port. Photograph: James Forde/The Irish Times

However, Birdwatch Ireland expressed alarm at the use of emergency measures to override environmental law for works at Dublin Port, where there is a colony of terns near a warehouse being refurbished for plant and animal-based food imports from the UK after Brexit, and in a special protection area such as Dublin Bay.

“We are particularly concerned that conservation organisations like Birdwatch Ireland might not be consulted on proposed planning applications under emergency provisions,” said Oonagh Duggan, BirdWatch Ireland’s assistant head of policy and advocacy.

"This would go against recent rulings by the European Court of Justice and in Ireland EU law must be fully implemented. We call on the Government to engage with us on this and to clarify its proposal." 

Other measures being considered in a no-deal scenario include moving lorry freight traffic to the Port of Cork in Ringaskiddy from Dublin Port should it experience traffic congestion after Brexit, though the port would need investment.

This week marks the start of a crunch period in the Brexit process as MPs could cast a series of votes to decide the manner and timing of the UK’s exit.

British prime minister Theresa May was preparing last night to make a last-minute trip to Brussels in an effort to save her Brexit deal ahead of a crucial vote in the House of Commons on Tuesday.


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