Thursday 17 October 2019

Lord Hain warns No-Deal Brexit could create ‘swinging gate’ for smuggling

The former Northern Ireland secretary warned the risk of a hard-Brexit was ‘very real’ and would affect Irish border communities the most.

By Aoife Moore, Press Association

A former secretary of state for Northern Ireland has warned that a no-deal Brexit could create a “swinging gate” for smuggling.

Lord Hain, who held the post from 2005 to 2007 under then-prime minister Tony Blair, warned the risk of a hard Brexit was “very real” and would affect Irish border communities the most.

In his speech to the British Irish Chamber in Westminster on Tuesday, Lord Hain warned a no-deal Brexit “could come into play as early as March 30 2019 if there is no withdrawal agreement, causing chaos to businesses, farmers and citizens on the island of Ireland”.

“No-deal means no soft landing and no soft border,” he said.

“This is particularly clear in terms of trade which, in the event of no deal, will be on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms.

“WTO terms are simply not designed to accommodate complex supply chains in agri-food.”

The agri-food sector remains one of the most vulnerable markets in regards to the fall-out from Brexit.

The UK was Ireland’s single largest trading partner for the agri-food sector in 2017, with exports to the UK totalling 5.2 billion euro (£4.55 billion) – 38% of all exports – while imports totalled 4.1 billion euro (£3.5 billion).

Lord Hain went on to echo security experts who have already voiced concerns over the re-emergence of border smuggling post-Brexit.

“WTO rules assume customs controls will always be imposed,” he said.

“The idea that a country would simply refuse to fulfil its duties with regard to customs facilitation is bizarre.

“Smuggling not only means losses to public revenue; it causes harm to legitimate traders, poses risks to consumers, and funds criminal activity.

“If the UK or Ireland decided to turn a blind eye to the traffic of goods across their borders, they would essentially be leaving a gate swinging wide open for smuggling.

“The unavoidable point is that a no-deal scenario would cause most harm to the Irish border region.

“It is beyond ironic, then, that the prospect of a no-deal is made so much more likely by the dispute over the so-called backstop for managing the Irish border.”

PA Media

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section