Tuesday 20 August 2019

Comment: British solutions make for frightening reading, so let's hope it scares them into a softer exit

A screenshot of one of the first batch of no-deal Brexit preparation papers. Photo: PA
A screenshot of one of the first batch of no-deal Brexit preparation papers. Photo: PA

Shona Murray

The UK government's technical notices in the case of a 'no-deal' Brexit make for frightening reading for many reasons.

It was no surprise Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab was sweating profusely while delivering the findings.

Mr Raab laid bare one-third of around 80 documents aimed at informing the public at large of what awaits them should the British walk away from the economic and political union they've created and shaped over 45 years.

Most remarkable about yesterday's announcements was the short supply of solutions for some of the most serious implications of Brexit.

Mr Raab - an ardent Brexiteer - offered up a convincing commitment to maintaining the Good Friday Agreement, thereby ensuring there would be no hard Border even if the UK crashes out of the EU.

However, he could offer no detail on how this could materialise. If the UK leaves the EU with no agreement on a future trade arrangement, or a backstop guaranteeing the status quo on the island of Ireland, then it will fall into WTO rules.

As a third country, with no formal arrangement with the EU, Ireland and the UK will become estranged and a customs and regulatory Border will be a legal imperative.

Every single element of trade, including standards and regulations including financial transaction, and consumer rights and laws have evolved from EU membership.

Unravelling all of that and stepping into the unknown would trigger immediate meltdown.

Brexiteers like Mr Raab are fully aware of this, yet both he and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt have been telling the British public that Britain would thrive under the WTO.

Of the most startling revelations yesterday was the official advice for businesses operating on a cross-Border basis, or ones with concerns about changes in UK-Ireland trade relations.

"You should consider whether you will need advice from the Irish Government about preparations you need to make," it states. Essentially, ask Dublin what to do because we have no plans in place.

Does this mean that pro-Brexit traders or members of the DUP will have to call Dublin for advice?

Furthermore is the direct impact to consumers when it comes to credit card charges, access to bank accounts and the increase in prices of goods due to tariffs and customs charges.

On the other hand, hard Brexiteers can be relieved their government is preparing for this as a serious likelihood. With the cost and chaos that will incur for the voting public to see, it might shore up support for a softer Brexit among more sensible members of parliament when the time comes to vote.

Irish Independent

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