Need for checks on imports under no-deal Brexit admitted

Coveney refers to non-Border ‘action’ on goods from North as pessimism grows

Tánaiste Simon Coveney with Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee: Mr Coveney promises there will be no infrastructure on the Border. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Tánaiste Simon Coveney with Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee: Mr Coveney promises there will be no infrastructure on the Border. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

The Government has signalled for the first time that checks on some goods imported from the North will be necessary after a no-deal Brexit, though Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney insisted that there would no checks “on the Border or close to it”.

Publishing a document on Tuesday that laid bare the extent of the economic and political threats of a no-deal Brexit, Mr Coveney said some checks on goods would be necessary in order to maintain Ireland’s place in the EU’s single market.

The Government has underlined its commitment not to reinstate a hard border, but Mr Coveney conceded that to remain fully inside the EU trading bloc Ireland would have to take “some action, somewhere” to ensure EU rules and regulations were met on goods entering from the North.

He declined to say where the checks on goods would be but promised that there would be no infrastructure on the Border. Discussions are ongoing with the European Commission, he said, about how to protect the single market, while at the same time maintaining an open border in Ireland.

Mr Coveney said the talks would focus 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.

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Position shift

The publication of the document, and Mr Coveney’s comments afterwards, mark a shift in the Government’s public position on the issue of checks on goods, admitting for the first time that some checks may be necessary.

The shift demonstrates the extent to which expectations about Brexit in Dublin and Brussels have become more pessimistic in recent months, in part due to the Conservative leadership contest in the UK. Both candidates for the party leadership and the prime minister’s office have said they will leave the EU without a deal on October 31th if the EU does not agree to changes to the backstop in the withdrawal agreement.

Both the EU and the Government have said there will be no change to the withdrawal agreement and the backstop, but have signalled they are willing to change the political declaration which charts the direction of the future trading relationship.

Bleak view

The latest no-deal Brexit update outlines the bleakest view yet of the political and economic consequences, which it warns will be “highly disruptive and will have profound political, economic and legal implications”.

It outlines plans to try to keep trade flowing through the country’s ports, despite the need for new checks on trucks arriving from the UK. Trucks will not be allowed to board ferries coming to Ireland unless they have the requisite customs clearance and those with animal and food shipments will have to give at least 24 hours’ notice.

While officials are confident that trucks will flow relatively freely on arrival in Ireland, some will have to be checked and the document gives strong warnings of likely delays in goods transported between Ireland and the Continent via the UK – the so-called landbridge – which carries €21 billion worth of Irish trade each year. This is likely to be subject to “severe delays and disruption”, it warns. New sea routes are being opened direct to the Continent, but the landbridge will remain vital.

The document also said that 50,000-55,000 jobs could be at risk and that a no-deal Brexit would swing exchequer finances into deficit for 2020.

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