Sunday 15 September 2019

Explainer: 'Why would there have to be Border checks if we are hit with no deal?'

Relic of the divide: An Irish customs post along the Border in Tully. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
Relic of the divide: An Irish customs post along the Border in Tully. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Why will there have to be checks in a no-deal Brexit scenario?

Currently goods and animals are allowed to move between the UK and Ireland without any checks because both countries are inside the EU single market and customs union. This means we have free trade and follow the same regulations on standards. If the UK leaves without agreeing some continuation of this arrangement, it will become a 'third country'. This means that World Trade Organisation tariffs will apply and it will be able to change production and environmental rules. For Ireland to stay inside the EU framework, we will have to make sure that no sub-standard products are getting in through Northern Ireland.

How does the backstop help maintain an open Border?

The backstop is an insurance mechanism which ties the UK to a large number of EU rules unless and until workable alternative arrangements are found. The EU is willing to have it apply only to Northern Ireland, but Theresa May insisted the whole of the UK must be treated the same.

Boris Johnson said he won't erect a border under any circumstances, so why would we?

Ministers say Ireland cannot afford to be dragged out of the EU single market by the UK. There are 63 checks and controls that potentially apply on goods entering the EU from a third country. It is the responsibly of each member state to enforce EU rules on product safety, food safety, animal health, as well as other controls for dangerous substances, endangered species and prohibited goods. Staying in the EU means protecting it from potentially sub-standard UK products.

Why would checks be 'near the Border' rather than at it?

There are fears any sort of infrastructure at the Border would become a target for dissident republicans. By moving it, the Government will be able to create a buffer zone and lessen the visible impact.

What would checkpoints look like?

The Government is refusing to give any practical information on the make-up of Border checks.

It is possible large warehouses and other sites will be selected on the southern side of the Border. Mobile spotchecks could also be rolled out. Most check and controls on goods will take place at ports, factories and food-processing plants.

How will this all happen at 11pm on October 31?

It won't. The EU will grant Ireland some leeway in the initial period after Brexit.

There is an understanding this is an unprecedented situation so there are a lot of issues that will only become apparent once the reality kicks in. However, 'turning a blind eye' will last for only so long and over a period of months checks will become more common.

Are our ports and airports equipped for such checks?

Millions has been spent preparing Dublin Port, Rosslare Europort and Dublin Airport for Brexit.

The provision of inspection facilities at Dublin Port has involved nine separate projects spread across eight sites. There is a 6,000 square metre warehouse that has been converted to accommodate 13 inspection bays for animal and food safety checks. Rosslare has extended its capacities too, although a lot more needs to be done.

At the airport, extra inspection areas for live animals and plants have been set up, while more freezer storage has been acquired.

Will the application of tariffs make shopping more expensive?

In many cases yes. The average charge on non-agricultural goods entering the EU from third countries is about 2.8pc - but in some cases the rate is significantly higher. For example, cars coming into the Republic from Northern Ireland will be hit with a 10pc tax.

The average tariff on dairy products is more than 35pc.

When will we know what's going to happen?

The Government insists it will tell the full story in relation to checks once it has concluded negotiations with the European Commission.

Time is short and pressure is mounting from opposition parties for more information.

We can expect a drip feed of details over the coming weeks.

Irish Independent

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