Thursday 13 December 2018

Cabinet due to sign off on east-west trade inspectors

Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Picture: PA
Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Picture: PA
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

Cabinet is due to sign off on the first phase of new inspectors to police east-west trade post-Brexit today.

The Irish Independent understands that some 450 customs inspectors - of the 1,000 it is estimated will be needed by 2021 - will be hired to supervise trade that goes east-west - to and from the Republic to the British mainland.

In July, the Government agreed to hire 1,000 new inspectors and veterinary inspectors as part of contingency planning for Brexit.

Tanáiste Simon Coveney will bring an update on the contingency plans to Cabinet today amid plans to hold events in October targeting businesses as part of a national awareness campaign.

Mr Coveney will travel to Brussels to meet the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier tonight as work continues in the EU to make the draft text on the Irish backstop more palatable to the UK.

A Government source sought to downplay the changes last night, insisting that the changes being drafted now were not changes to the backstop but to the "legal expression" of the backstop.

UK proposals to change the wording - which was invited by the EU - had not been forthcoming, so the EU had taken the initiative to look at redrafting the text, they said.

The British government objects to the current draft of the so-called backstop because it would imply that if the UK were to be outside the single market and customs union, but with Northern Ireland effectively remaining inside, then it would mean a customs border along the Irish Sea.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will travel tomorrow to Salzburg for a meeting of EU leaders where Brexit will be discussed and he will also have a one-on-one meeting with Theresa May on the sidelines of the summit.

Separately, the senior civil servant running Northern Ireland's public services since Stormont collapsed has expressed his deep concern for the region if there is no Brexit deal. David Sterling, the head of the Northern Ireland civil service, said many local firms might find it "impossible" to continue to trade normally if they are faced with Irish Border tariffs.

Irish Independent

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