Ireland to insist on backstop even under no-deal Brexit

Irish officials say UK cannot walk away from obligations on Border in any circumstances

A lorry passes a poster on Monday in Jonesborough by calling for “No Border” between the Republic and Northern Irelan. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

A lorry passes a poster on Monday in Jonesborough by calling for “No Border” between the Republic and Northern Irelan. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

 

Ireland will insist that the UK must accept and implement the backstop in Northern Ireland even in a Brexit no-deal scenario, diplomatic sources say.

EU officials said on Monday that, with a no-deal Brexit increasingly likely, they will intensify discussions with Dublin about what will happen on the Irish Border in a no-deal situation.

They also promised that to look at providing financial assistance to help Ireland face up to the challenge.

Briefing journalists in Brussels about the state of no-deal planning around the EU, a European Commission official said there was already a “high degree of preparation by member states for all scenarios”.

“Nothing would be smooth,” she said, but the situation was “manageable”.

She said the commission had been taking extensive soundings from citizens around Europe. “The message that we have very much heard from these meetings is that, ‘we don’t want a no-deal Brexit of course, it would be much better to have a transition period, but if it is to happen, let’s have it quickly’.

“They [EU citizens] were very often comparing that to a plaster. You can take it off very very slowly, or you can do it off very very quickly and then it’s over and done. And so they were telling us ‘we want certainly and if it has to happen so be it.’”

The official said that in the event of a no-deal, some unilateral measures by Ireland would be necessary to protect consumers and safeguard animal health but that controls would be “away from the border”.

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“We are working very closely with the Irish authorities to try to carry out controls away from the border if at all possible,” the official said.

“But this is still a situation that is absolutely fundamentally different to a withdrawal agreement situation – there will be disruptions, we are working to find good solutions,” the official said.

The official reiterated that there was an obligation on the UK to honour both the Belfast Agreement and Word Trade Organisation rules.

Ireland is understood to see the backstop as the only viable expression of the Belfast Agreement that can reconcile those obligations and keep the Border infrastructure-free. The backstop is the insurance policy in the EU-UK withdraswal agreement designed to avoid a hard Border in Ireland after Brexit.

Ready for no-deal

It is Ireland’s position that the UK cannot walk away from this, even in the event of a no-deal. As one Irish source said on Monday, “the backstop applies in all situations”. Irish officials remain adamant that no physical infrastructure will be built on the Border in a no-deal situation and insist that EU negotiators accept that.

In the event of a no-deal departure by the UK it is understood that Ireland would want immediately to initiate bilateral discussions with the UK about a range of concerns, including the backstop. Ahead of Brexit, preparations for no-deal are unilateral so such face-to-face discussions must await the UK departure.

Member states and large businesses are ready for a no-deal Brexit, the commission said, as it listed the range of special measures it has taken in preparation, including sending out some 90 sector-specific notices.

With the UK out of the EU, trade would fall under World Trade Organisation rules and the EU would immediately apply WTO rules and tariffs to goods traded with Britain. It would start checks and controls for customs, sanitary and phytosanitary standards, as well as verification of compliance with EU norms.

Officials said that 700 new customs officials had already been recruited in France, 3-400 in Belgium.

No-deal contingency measures include a continuation of the Peace funding in Northern Ireland meant to support the peace process until the end of 2020.

The EU could continue making payments in 2019 to British beneficiaries for contracts signed and decisions made before March 30th, 2019, if Britain honours its obligations and accepts audits and controls.

In financial services the EU will allow temporary, limited measures to ensure no immediate disruption in the central clearing of derivatives, The EU will ensure basic air connectivity to avoid interruption of air traffic between the EU and Britain. And it will allow British road transport firms basic access to the EU for a “limited period of time”.

The EU will add new maritime links between Ireland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands to the core network. And it will honour the entitlement to social security benefits accrued by EU citizens who have been working in Britain before Brexit and British citizens working in the EU.

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