Brexit: UK to seek deal on North-South trade in case of no-deal Brexit

Brexit secretary Dominic Raab restates commitment to keeping Irish Border open

Britain’s Brexit secretary Dominic Raab outlines the British government’s ambitions for a no-deal Brexit.


The British government will seek to negotiate a special arrangement for North-South trade to ensure that the Border remains open even in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

But trade between the Republic and the rest of the United Kingdom could be subject to the same bureaucratic arrangements facing other EU member-states.

Brexit secretary Dominic Raab said the British government would maintain its commitment to keeping the Border open regardless of the outcome of Brexit negotiations but he refused to rule out differentiated arrangements for Irish firms trading with the rest of the UK.

“We’re saying very loud and clear that we will not allow anything to disrupt the terms of the Belfast Agreement and that we wouldn’t return to any form of hard Border,” he said.

“I’m not quite sure what it would look like so I’m not going to hypothetically rule it in or out.”

Mr Raab was speaking after the publication of 25 technical notices outlining the impact of a no-deal Brexit on different sectors and economic activities. A number of the notices, including those on trade, tariffs and the cross-border movement of medicines, medical devices, blood and human organs, suggest that special arrangements may be required for Northern Ireland.

“In such a scenario, the UK would stand ready to engage constructively to meet our commitments and act in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland, recognising the very significant challenges that the lack of a UK-EU legal agreement would pose in this unique and highly sensitive context.

“This would include engagements on arrangements for land border trade. We will provide more information in due course,” the notice on trade says.

Preparations needed

“The Irish Government have indicated they would need to discuss arrangements in the event of no deal with the European Commission and EU member-states. We would recommend that, if you trade across the land border, you should consider whether you need advice from the Irish Government about preparations you need to make.”

The notice on trade tells businesses importing goods from the EU that they will have to register as importers and decide the correct classification and value of their goods and enter it on a customs declaration for the revenue and customs service (HMRC).

They should “consider how they will submit import declarations, including whether to engage a customs broker, freight forwarder or logistics provider (businesses that want to do this themselves will need to acquire the appropriate software and secure the necessary authorisations from HMRC). Engaging a customs broker or acquiring the appropriate software and authorisations form HMRC will come at a cost”.

Other notices warn that the cost of credit card payments between Britain and the EU could rise after a no-deal Brexit and British citizens living in the EU could lose access to UK banking and pension services.

Britain would continue to accept medicines tested in EU member-states and Mr Raab said he would expect the EU to act with similar “good faith” and flexibility, even without a Brexit deal.

‘Bandied around’

“Most of the worst case scenarios, being bandied around, imply that the EU would resist all and any mutual cooperation with the UK. In reality, I find it difficult to imagine that our EU partners would not want to cooperate with us even in that scenario in key areas like this, given the obvious mutual benefits involved,” he said.

Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said the technical notices and Mr Raab’s speech showed that the government was not prepared for a no-deal Brexit.

“We are eight weeks out from the deadline for reaching an agreement. Ministers should be getting on the job of negotiating a Brexit deal that works for Britain, not publishing vague documents that will convince no one.

“A no-deal Brexit has never been viable and would represent a complete failure of the government’s negotiating strategy,” he said.