Taoiseach says no-deal Brexit may require checks ‘near the Border’
‘Expensive and bureaucratic’: Varadkar spells out effects of worst-case scenario
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the British-Irish Chamber dinner some checks on goods and live animals entering the Republic would take place ‘near the Border’ in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Photograph: Dave Meehan
In his clearest assessment of the effects of a no-deal yet, Mr Varadkar listed a range of disruptions that would occur after October 31st if the UK left the EU without an agreement.
He also said he believes “there is a possibility we may have to live with no deal for a period”.
Mr Varadkar does “not anticipate any significant change in medicine supplies. There will still be food on shelves but perhaps not all of the same brands,” he told the annual dinner of the British-Irish Chamber of Commerce in Dublin on Thursday night.
“Flights, trains and buses will continue to operate normally for a period but an agreement will be needed for this to continue permanently,” he said. “EU vessels will no longer be allowed to fish in UK waters and vice-versa, though the [European] Commission has proposed a short extension of the status quo.
“Tariffs will apply to goods imported into Ireland from the United Kingdom and vice-versa . . . This will be expensive and bureaucratic for business. There will be checks on goods and live animals and, as far as possible, they will take place in ports, airports and at businesses. But some may take place near the Border. We are working out the details of this with the European Commission,” he said.
Earlier this week Ministers who asked were not given any further details about the border checks, and the progress of the exchanges with the commission remains a closely-guarded secret within Government. One source described recent statements as “a softening up process”.
Mr Varadkar also warned if there was a no-deal, any subsequent negotiations with the UK would have the same red lines for the EU – “citizens’ rights, the financial settlement with the EU and a solution to the Irish Border. All the issues we spent the last two years on”.
However, he stressed that the Government was “open to alternatives” to the backstop “as we always have been. But they must be realistic ones, legally binding and workable in practice.
“We have received no such proposals to date,” he said.
“Whatever happens,” Mr Varadkar said, “Ireland will not be dragged out of the single European market.”
Ireland’s economic model, he said, depended on membership of the single market.
While Ireland wanted a deal, he said, he did not want one “at any cost”.
More than 450 attendees from Britain and Ireland attended the dinner which was also addressed by Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Dame Carolyn Fairbairn.
Ms Fairbairn warned delegates the “reality [of a no-deal Brexit] would be devastating.”
John Cronin, president of the chamber, warned a no-deal Brexit would “damage and imperil existing trade between Ireland and the United Kingdom,and will limit future business opportunities.
“Businesses in Ireland and the UK are entering uncharted waters,” he said. “The persistence of uncertainty on the terms on which businesses on both sides of the Irish Sea will trade with each other is disruptive, costly and harmful to relationships. The ability of many businesses to limit the impact of no-deal while protecting supply chains, commercial ties and livelihoods is actually quite small.”