Countdown to Brexit: 26 days – Ireland prepares for a no-deal Brexit

Nobody would expect less than total professionalism from the UK civil service as it responds to Government demands to be ready for all possible Brexit scenarios – including the cliff-edge ‘no-deal’.

Yesterday, we looked at the chain of events that could lead to the triggering of an “accidental” no-deal – and then discovered that our findings and conclusions have been independently echoed by, among others, the EIU in their February newsletter.

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The view that actions can have unexpected consequences was also illustrated as the Department of Transport paid out £33m to settle a claim with Eurotunnel.  The firm took legal action over the process to award ferry contracts to cope with a no-deal Brexit – aiming to ensure supplies to the state-run NHS and other critical imports should the UK Brexit on March 29 without a deal in place.  Not ‘project fear’ – just more grist to the mill of Nik Gowing and Chris Langdon writing about Brexit in their book: “Thinking the Unthinkable”.

We have also reported regularly on how the EU27 Nations are responding to the EU’s call to arms in March 2018 - and the recent ramp up of their own “preparedness for a no-deal Brexit contingency planning”.  Contact us at enquiries@brexit-partners.com for a list - and access to our comprehensive library of Brexit references, including both UK and EU no-deal Technical and Preparedness Notices.

We looked at the impact of Brexit on the shared land border between Spain and Gibraltar.  Meanwhile on the island of Ireland, the Irish Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, told the Dáil there will be 400 extra customs staff recruited before the end of the March – with some 200 more to follow soon after.  These workers will be required to deal with a new customs systems resulting from Brexit. 

The Minister stated that the new staff will not be placed at or near the border with Northern Ireland, because the Government would not be developing infrastructure there.  He noted that the Government would provide extra resources to Revenue “if they need it”.

Donohoe said that work on this scale has not hit the economy for decades.  It means more costs to be absorbed by Irish business - without the opportunity to ‘offset’ against any ‘Brexit bonus’ that the UK ‘Leave’ supporters dreamed might accrue to UK businesses.

Earlier this week, the Chief Executive of Dublin Port said that if there is a ‘hard Brexit’ on 29 March - the number of lorries travelling through the port would increase by 800,000 a year. Work is currently under way on new customs checkpoints in the port - the first to be built here in decades.

Catherine Day, a former secretary general of the European Commission – and who acted as an adviser to Commission President Jean Claude Juncker - said that we are "obviously in the endgame now - and I think and I hope we are seeing the reality of choices dawning on everyone.” 

She still expects the UK to leave the European Union.  Speaking on RTÉ's ‘News at One’, she said that she was heartened by her reading of the situation that the no-deal exit is off the table.  "I think even with all my sympathies for a second vote - I think the UK is going to leave the EU."

"I don't exclude the possibly that Theresa May will get her deal through and that the ERG would come round to supporting it in the end," she said – adding that if that is not the case the UK will likely leave at the end of June.

"We need to solve this issue soon on an agreed basis so we can actually move on to negotiating what's going to be much more important for the future - the future relationship between the UK outside the EU and the EU's relationship with the UK outside the EU."

The Tánaiste, Simon Coveney - speaking at the conclusion of the Dáil Second Stage debate on the Brexit Omnibus Bill - urged people who hold a UK driving licence - but who live in Ireland - to quickly apply for an Irish licence.  He said this is necessary “in case the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal on March 29.”

Coveney stated that there was no plan by the Government to have a border on the island of Ireland in the event of a hard Brexit – but that the Irish Government hoped the Withdrawal Agreement would be approved by the British Parliament in the coming weeks.

Ireland’s Brexit Omnibus Bill is a huge piece of legislation.  The Committee Stage debate will begin in the Dáil next Tuesday – and is scheduled to complete all stages and become legislation by the middle of March.

North of the border, in the province which voted ‘Remain’ – the only remaining they are doing right now is remaining as one of the stumbling blocks in the Withdrawal Agreement – despite the Irish border and Good Friday Agreement being the subject of scores of pages hundreds of the 585-page Withdrawal Agreement itself.

Alliance party leader, Naomi Long, this week accused the British Government of “trading in a racehorse with its membership of the EU for the donkey of Brexit.”  She arrived on stage at the party conference at the Stormont Hotel to Elvis track: ‘A Little Less Conversation - a little more action please’.

Long said: “In short, our membership of the EU is a racehorse, which we are trading for the promise of a unicorn - and so whatever donkey Theresa May brings home from Brussels will never and can never satisfy the expectations - either of those who voted for a unicorn or those who were happy with the racehorse.”

Background

In 2018, Eurotunnel carried 21 million passengers, 17 million trucks, 2.7 million cars and 26% of trade between Britain and the EU - and there are fears that a no-deal Brexit could disrupt supplies and choke supply chains.

Eurotunnel said in a statement: "Eurotunnel has concluded an out of court agreement [for £33m] that will ensure the Channel Tunnel remains the preferred route for vital goods to travel between the EU and the UK."

The UK Government has stated that most goods from the EU will be allowed into Britain “without full customs checks” for at least three months if there is no Brexit deal.  There is little evidence that the EU – nor the nation states that have direct shipping routes to the UK – are so minded.