Saturday 29 April 2017

Cost of Brexit 'should not fall at the feet of the Irish taxpayer'

British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks on the third day of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Photo: AP
British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks on the third day of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Photo: AP

Philip Ryan and Colm Kelpie

Ireland should not be expected to shoulder any financial burden from Britain's decision to leave the European Union, the Government has been warned.

Two senior Fianna Fáil TDs yesterday insisted Brexit should not cost the Irish taxpayer or affect the Government's budget spending decisions.

The party's finance spokesman said if the UK leaves the EU customs union it will present Ireland with a "range of difficulties" and will be "devastating" for cross-Border business.

"In terms of the costs involved, that's going to be part of the negotiations, but it certainly can't be a bill landed at the feet of the Irish people," Mr McGrath told the Irish Independent.

Fianna Fáil's foreign affairs spokesman Darragh O'Brien said the Government should "not give up" on retaining the current border arrangements, but if they do change, there should be no cost incurred by the Exchequer.

Read More: More than 100 London firms 'have asked about moving to Ireland'

The warning came as Fine Gael's Simon Coveney claimed the Government had "intensively" lobbied Downing Street to ensure Theresa May made specific reference to Ireland in her Brexit speech. In her address this week laying out the UK's vision for Brexit, in which she said the UK would leave the Single Market, Ms May said the UK would commit to maintaining the common travel area.

Mr Coveney said discussions had been taking place directly between the Irish and British governments surrounding the UK's EU withdrawal, and claimed London was pressed by Dublin to ensure Ireland was referred to by Ms May.

And he claimed Ireland now had a role to play as a "rational" voice between the UK and EU, as he predicted the negotiations would be "nasty".

Lobbying

"Before Theresa May made her speech, there was intensive lobbying coming from Government, to the British government, to ensure that in her speech she specifically singled out Ireland as an issue that needs to be resolved in terms of the Common Travel Area," Mr Coveney told a public meeting on Brexit last night in Drogheda.

Meanwhile, senior Revenue Commissioner officials revealed the potential return of customs tariffs, declarations and checks would cost the taxpayer several million euro in terms of extra staffing, facilities, new technology and a major upgrade of IT systems.

Read More: Early figures on potential impact make for sober reading

The vast bulk of the extra cost is expected to be borne on the trade facilitation side - simply ensuring that commercial goods vehicles are able to move as freely between North and South, and Ireland and Britain, as possible.

Revenue will need to have systems in place that will allow for a significant increase in information about the level of goods being transported across the Border, and between the two islands. Camera technology is also likely to be needed to allow for the free flow of traffic if the UK pulls out of the customs union.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said experts were examining ways of preventing the introduction of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

"Prime Minister May is coming to Dublin at the end of the month and I'll have some further discussion about these issues with her when she comes," he said.

Irish Independent

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