Preparations for a cliff edge outcome of the UK crashing out of the EU in March would lead to the policing of the Irish border as if it were the Polish-Russia frontier.
The European Commission issued requirements for all member states, including Ireland, to prepare contingency plans because of the heightened risks that UK leader Theresa May will fail to get agreement for a withdrawal agreement in less than 100 days.
However, a 14-point bulletin issued to EU capitals covering citizens’ rights, financial services, and air services also urges governments to apply EU customs codes and rules on goods passing through the UK border.
If implemented, the advice would lead to the hardest of hard borders in Ireland.
“It is essential, however, that member states take all the necessary steps to be in a position to apply the union customs code and the relevant rules regarding indirect taxation in relation to the United Kingdom,” the commission advised.
“If the withdrawal agreement is not ratified before 30 March 2019, there will be no transition period and EU law will cease to apply to and in the UK as of 30 March 2019. This is referred to as the ‘no deal’ or ‘cliff-edge’ scenario,” it said.
Planning for a soft Brexit outcome, the Government is recruiting about 1,000 extra revenue, customs, and veterinary staff for Dublin and other ports. However, many more thousands of staff would be required if the EU were to insist on policing a hard border.
Brian Keegan, director of public policy and taxation at Chartered Accountants, said the EU’s planning document shows the chaos a no-deal Brexit entails. “No responsible politician should countenance a no deal,” he said.
The commission also said it would allow for a 12-month accord for planes to continue to fly; for UK truckers for nine months to carry goods into the EU; and for UK citizens to continue to live in the EU with social security rights preserved.
The EU also said it “reiterated its commitment to ensuring” funding for the border counties “can continue in all scenarios”.