The Irish Times view on Brexit planning: Preparing for the worst
EU has shown greater commitment to peace in Ireland than either of two main UK parties
A no-deal Brexit is still not inevitable, given the fact that a majority of British MPs want to avoid it, but with every day that passes the prospect of the worst happening becomes ever more likely as there does not appear to be any other option that commands majority support in the House of Commons. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA
The publication of contingency plans by the Government and the European Commission to deal with a no-deal Brexit has brought home the full scale of the potential disaster which this country may have to confront in 100 days’ time. A no-deal Brexit is still not inevitable, given the fact that a majority of British MPs want to avoid it, but with every day that passes the prospect of the worst happening becomes ever more likely as there does not appear to be any other option that commands majority support in the House of Commons.
The potentially devastating impact of a no-deal exit is starkly illustrated by the “contingency action plan” published by Government last night. Quite apart from the macro-economic impact, the document makes clear, almost every aspect of everyday economic activity in the State, from trade flows to consumer spending, would be affected. Particular sectors are badly exposed, not least agri-food, fisheries, aviation, retail and road transport. Up to 45 pieces of emergency legislation would be required.
Similarly, the European Commission schedule of emergency legislation needed to manage and soften the break with the UK shows how seriously the danger of a no-deal is now being taken in Brussels. A welcome part of the commission’s statement is a reaffirmation of continued funding of the EU Peace programme in Northern Ireland and the Border region of the Republic.
The EU has shown its deep commitment to peace on this island by continuing the funding for this programme until 2020, regardless of Brexit, and putting forward proposals to continue the funding when the current EU budget expires. One of the most striking features of the whole Brexit process is that the EU has shown itself more concerned with peace on this island than either of the two major parties in the UK.
The Government says it is still not making contingency plans for the installation of a hard border. Nor does the commission’s contingency plan deal with the vexed question of how a frictionless border in Ireland will be maintained in the event of a no-deal scenario, although there is a general belief that sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) controls to protect humans, animals and plants from diseases, pests and contaminants as well as food checks will not have to be conducted on the Irish land border. The whole of Ireland is already regarded as one SPS region and such controls already happen at Holyhead and Stranraer, and will, it is understood, be expanded.
The 14 measures published by the EU include areas such as citizens’ rights, air landing rights and safety, and the free movement of animals. Yet they cover only a small fraction of the areas likely to be affected. Much more remains to be done by all sides before March 29th in case the worst happens.