‘Back to El Paso’ - Border politicians on tariffs
Dáil Deputies in constituencies close to the Border responded to British document
Declan Breathnach, a Fianna Fáil for Louth, accused the British government of playing “Russian roulette”. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Politicians in border constituencies have expressed serious disquiet at the decision by Britain that it will keep the Border open in a no-deal Brexit scenario but will impose tariffs on Northern goods entering the Republic.
Dáil Deputies in constituencies close to the Border have responded to the document published by the British government which will impose no tariffs on goods moving North, but will mean tariffs for goods being exported to the rest of the UK.
Declan Breathnach, a Fianna Fáil for Louth, accused the British government of playing “Russian roulette”.
“They are trying to put it up to Europe. I have been worried for a long time that we would get to this stage,” he said.
“If this happens and they go through with it, we will be back to the bad old days. We saw an example this morning of 53 per cent tariffs for goods going from Ireland to Britain.
“We will be back to smuggling. We will be back to El Paso,” he said.
His constituency colleague Fergus O’Dowd, Fine Gael, said the unilateral decision by the British government for a temporary tariff in the event of a no-deal was a wake-up call.
“It suddenly dawned on the country this morning what Brexit will look like. Whatever happens, be it hard or soft, there are to be significant repercussions,” he said.
“The issue is regulatory convergence. We need free movement, North and South, rather than something that negatively impacts on goods going out.”
Robert Troy (Fianna Fáil), who represents Longford-Westmeath, said tariffs on Irish companies exporting to Britain would have a big impact on his constituency. He said companies like Mr Crumb, which produces bread crumb for stuffing and cooking; Mergon (plastics) and Iralco (automotive parts) which employ hundreds of people will be adversely affected by tariffs.
“It is a huge worry for people. Business is doing all they can to diversify,” he said.
For Monaghan-based MEP Matt Carty (Sinn Féin), the announcement amounted to “game playing” but an acknowledgement by Britain of its own need for a back-stop, as it allowed tariff-free trade for from the South to the North.
“They accept the impossibility of enforcing any customs control. If anything it reinforces the need to have a backstop provision in place,” he said.
Sligo-Leitrim TD Tony McLoughlin (Fine Gael) said it had created more uncertainty. However, like Mr Breathnach and Mr Carty he said there should be no back-sliding on the back-stop.
However, another Border-based TD who spoke on the basis of anonymity said the Government would now have to contemplate some concessions on the back-stop.
“The reality is if there is a hard Brexit there is no back-stop. What good will a back-stop be if there is a crash-out?” asked the TD.