Brexit impact on cross-Border crime ‘may take months, even years’
Garda reforms put on hold for Border divisions pending clarity on Brexit outcome
A sign for a disused customs office along the Irish Border in Newry. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty
The impact of Brexit on cross-Border crime and terrorism would take time to emerge and no significant shifts were expected immediately after the UK leaves the EU, senior gardaí believe.
Garda sources have said that although there had been much debate around the new policing demands that will emerge due to Brexit, it would take time for those demands to become clear.
“Any changes to the Border might put big demands on us in terms of dealing with the dissident [paramilitaries] or it may not change much. We can’t know that yet,” said one source.
Another source said that although criminal gangs would seek to exploit any advantage they may gain from one side of the Border being in the EU and the other outside it, shifts in criminal behaviour would be gradual.
“There’s not going to be a huge change between the day before and the day after Brexit, or anything like it,” he said. “It may take months, even years, before a shift in cross-Border crime and how gangs operate settles into a clearer pattern.”
Although smuggling was an obvious growth area after Brexit, he said, the shift in the value of sterling that has already taken place would perhaps exert a bigger influence on smuggling than the UK leaving the EU.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris is pressing ahead with plans to restructure the force, from six regions to four and from 28 divisions to 19 under the new policing model. However, senior officers believe it is more prudent to pause those structural changes around the Border until Brexit occurs and the impact of it on policing and crime becomes clearer.
Mr Harris said two weeks ago that with the uncertainty around Brexit, there was “already enough going on” in the Garda’s Border divisions without asking the personnel there to undergo structural change under the new plan.
As a result, he said that he had decided to pause the changes as they relate to the Border divisions until after the outcome of the Brexit process was clear.
He was speaking to the joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice at the time. Since then he has announced the list of Garda stations that will be the regional and divisional headquarters under his new restructuring plans.
While Monaghan station was not being retained as a divisional headquarters and was also not a regional headquarters, the regional chief superintendent would remain in Monaghan station, he said.
That move lends continuity to the Border region and is effectively part of the plan to delay the restructuring around the Border.