Monday 23 September 2019

'Winter is coming' - warning of €10m daily Brexit losses

'Winter is coming' with halt to border trade

Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

A leading economist has warned "winter is coming", with a hard Brexit set to bring cross-border trade to a standstill on the island and cost the economy more than €10m every day.

Jim Power said North-South trade will grind to a standstill within 24 hours of a hard Brexit and remain stagnant for weeks because of a lack of planning and a need to create a border infrastructure.

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It comes after leaked UK government documents warned cross-border agriculture trade in Northern Ireland will "virtually stop" within a day of a crash-out Brexit. It warns other North-South trade will slow dramatically.

Figures from the CSO show an average of €9.6m worth of goods crossed the Border every day last year. However, the average figure for November is even higher as retailers gear up before Christmas.

More than €10.5m worth of goods crossed the Border every day last November.

Mr Power said such traffic would grind to a standstill immediately after a crash-out Brexit, costing the economy €140m in the first two weeks after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's October 31 Brexit deadline. Much of the disruption will be caused by a lack of border infrastructure to manage trade, and further disruption would continue and bring further economic hardship, he added.

"The point here is that between €9m and €10m goes over and back across the Border every day," Mr Power told the Sunday Independent.

"In the event of a hard Brexit, when they won't have systems in place to deal with that, there are two possible conclusions. One is that they would ignore the fact there is a Border - which would be totally against EU policy because you cannot have an unprotected EU border.

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"The other possible outcome is that the whole thing will come to a standstill. I think it will take weeks to iron out the issues. Unless moves are made in the next three months to put all of the controls in place, it is going to lead to utter economic disruption."

Businesses close to the Border will be most at risk, especially those in the agriculture and food processing sectors.

"The first couple of weeks will be utter chaos," Mr Power said. "To quote Game of Thrones, winter is coming."

Mr Power said trade across the Irish Sea will also be disrupted, but not as significantly as between Northern Ireland and the Republic because ports already have some infrastructure to manage goods.

Much of the difficulty surrounding post-Brexit trade with Northern Ireland would focus on a lack of infrastructure at the Border. There are fears that erecting border checks prior to October 31 would create huge political tension in the Border region, but trade with the UK without border checks will be impossible without a Brexit deal.

Read more here: 'Economy to worsen' - poll reveals nation is bracing itself for Brexit hit

Sensitive UK government documents leaked last week shows it expects cross-border trade to stop immediately. It also notes that the first 30 days of a hard Brexit will cause "distress" for small businesses and "potential law and order challenges".

Mr Power warned: "The Border will be the EU frontier, and the default position will be 'no trade' basically."

Sunday Independent

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