Monday 23 September 2019

Hugh O'Connell: 'Brexit still looks a bleak prospect despite noises to the contrary'

  

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends an extended working session on Climate, Biodiversity and Oceans during the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France, August 26, 2019. Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via REUTERS
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends an extended working session on Climate, Biodiversity and Oceans during the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France, August 26, 2019. Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via REUTERS
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

A hard Brexit will hurt us all in some shape or form and yesterday the Government was outlining the implications for online shopping. An Post did its best to downplay the potential impact with its managing director of mails and parcels Garrett Bridgeman saying its customers need not worry.

He even went so far as to say: "From our point of view, it is not a big deal."

But while the postal service was talking up its ability to continue to seamlessly handle and deliver the some 14 million parcels ordered from the UK every year, in a no-deal scenario the implications for consumers' pockets became apparent.

Yes, for online shoppers there will, An Post insists, be no major delays in getting their goods delivered from the UK. But consumers will be forced to contend with extra tax and customs duties that currently apply to items bought from outside the EU.

If the UK crashes out, then the change will become pretty apparent for people's pockets in the run-up to Christmas as their online shopping costs rise.

Yesterday's outing to An Post's Mail Centre in Portlaoise, Co Laois, was a useful and informative insight for the media and the public into how the postal service is preparing for Brexit. There is no doubt about the level of effort that has gone into this aspect of contingency planning and there was a definite air of assurance about the place.

But then this is what the Government wants you to see and hear about. There will be plenty more of it in the coming weeks as it ramps up no-deal preparations.

The problem is we are still largely in the dark about the most pressing issue on the island of Ireland in a no-deal scenario: what happens along the Brexit Border in 65 days' time?

Last week, the Irish Independent outlined some of the detail when we told you about plans for new checks and controls at ports and factories. The plans are still under discussion between the EU and the Irish Government. The characterisation of these as "secret" talks was rejected by the Government, including European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee.

But we don't know, for example, when and where these talks are talking place, who is involved or what exactly is being discussed. For now they are being done very much in secret as both Ireland and the EU fear discussing them publicly will torpedo any hopes that a deal can be done.

At the conclusion of the G7 summit in Biarritz, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the chances of avoiding no deal "depend exclusively on the willingness of our friends and partners to compromise on that crucial point and to get rid of the backstop".

The EU and Ireland remain doggedly opposed to such a proposition, even ruling out a time limit suggested by former EU affairs minister Lucinda Creighton.

There are still 65 days to go and a lot can and will no doubt happen in that period, but in contrast to the air of confidence portrayed by An Post in Portlaoise yesterday, the real Brexit outlook remains pretty bleak.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss