UK 'no-deal' Brexit planning offers no answers for Irish border trade

12 December 2018 2:50pm

23 August 2018. By Matthew Holehouse.

Businesses trading over the UK-Ireland land border should speak to the government in Dublin over what to do in case the UK exits the EU without a deal, the British government has said. That's about the extent of the UK's "no-deal" planning for Irish-border trade, according papers unveiled today.

A note today highlights “the very significant challenges that the lack of a UK-EU legal agreement would pose in this unique and highly sensitive context” and calls for “engagement on land border trade.”

“The Irish government have indicated that 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 will need advice from the Irish governments about preparations you need to make.”

A standoff over the border is the principal risk to a negotiated settlement.

The UK government remains viscerally opposed to a commission proposal to keep Northern Ireland in a customs union and elements of the single market to prevent a border, saying it amounts to an assault on the UK’s territorial integrity that wouldn't be supported by the UK Parliament.

The commission plan, which would impose customs and regulatory controls along the Irish Sea frontier, also seriously underestimates the risk of disorder or violence from the unionist community which wants to keep Northern Ireland in the UK, the government argues.

A UK proposal to eliminate these risks through the UK maintaining alignment on goods has been rebuffed by the EU.

But the UK leaving without a deal doesn't make the problem go away.

The UK government said it would seek talks with the Irish government in the event of talks collapsing.

The UK’s primary objective — of upholding all elements of the 1997 Belfast Agreement which ended a 30-year sectarian conflict in the region — would remain in those circumstances, the government said.

Beyond that, it offers little clue as to how it would address the Irish border question in the event of a no-deal scenario, and gives scant advice to cross-border businesses, beyond the tip to seek guidance from Dublin.

Brexit Special Report