Thursday 22 August 2019

Less than 1pc of businesses attend Government's Brexit customs workshops

Taoiseach Leo Vardakar. Photo: INM
Taoiseach Leo Vardakar. Photo: INM
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Less than 1pc of Irish businesses have taken part in the Government's Brexit workshops, which were intended to help firms prepare for Britain crashing out of the EU, new figures reveal.

Just 531 out of a potential 90,000 Irish businesses that trade with the UK have attended the workshops which are aimed at small firms.

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The 'prepare your business for customs' one-day interactive workshop educates business owners on how to trade with countries outside of the EU.

Fianna Fail's business spokesperson Robert Troy said: "It is very worrying that four months out from the October 31 deadline, just 531 businesses have participated in the Brexit preparedness one-day workshops, run in all counties by Local Enterprise Offices."

Troy said the Government should be escalating preparations for a no-deal Brexit, and called on Business Minister Heather Humphreys to launch an national awareness campaign to alert small firms to danger.

"These customs workshops educate businesses on the potential impacts and procedures they will need to adopt when trading with a third country outside the Single Market and Custom Unions. The workshops cover vitally important areas such as tariffs, export and import procedures," he said

"Businesses need to engage and prepare themselves. Given the very low uptake, I would call on Minister Humphreys to immediately launch a national awareness campaign to increase uptake in these workshops," he added.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland's police chief has warned that a hard Brexit will have a "detrimental" impact on the peace process. Chief Constable Simon Byrne painted a stark picture of a potential worst-case scenario of farms and agricultural businesses going bust, animals being culled and unrest within communities.

During a press conference in Belfast, Byrne was asked if a hard Brexit would have a detrimental impact on the peace process. "Absolutely detrimental," he replied.

The chief constable's warning came a day after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar predicted the UK would end up facing decades of economic decline following Brexit, as the nation struggled to cope with diminishing importance on the world stage.

The chief constable, who assumed office at the start of the month, said he wanted answers from London as to how the PSNI was supposed to police around 300 border crossings in the face of a dissident republican threat that would escalate if there was a disorderly UK Brexit.

"I think we are worried that in the short term a hard Brexit will create a vacuum, which becomes a rally call and recruiting ground for dissident republicans, and clearly any rise in their popularity or their capability would be very serious," he said.

Byrne said his officers were having discussions with senior civil servants to "make plain" the PSNI's concerns.

"Firstly, we are all in the same place that we don't quite know where things will go and we have prepared as well as we can, both as a PSNI and with other organisations

"But on specifics if we have a hard border, the question I have for London, frankly, is how do we police that hard border? You'll know how many crossings there are between the two countries, nearly 300 - and that's the official ones. So I think it raises a whole raft of issues around the potential for smuggling.

"If we go into the worst-case scenario apart from the policing dimension, my personal concern is, for example, understanding the effects on agriculture here, which so important. If tariffs change and drop we will see the prospect of animals being culled and people going out of business, that may lead to unrest, and we having to protect other agencies as we go to support new arrangements."

Sunday Independent

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