Contingency planning for Brexit is being carried out “for all scenarios”, the Government has confirmed.
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has confirmed that, should the North leave the customs union, some customs checkpoints will have to exist.
“If goods are travelling on the island of Ireland and move from one customs union to another, there have to be customs checks somewhere, whether that’s in a farmyard, in a factory, in an office or in the back of a truck,” said Mr Coveney.
“So we want to avoid that, we have been very clear and consistent on that. Some people have accused the Irish Government of hardening or changing its position in the last few days —that is not the case.”
In the Dáil, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed that contingency planning “for all scenarios” is under way.
Mr Varadkar also sought to deny that work has been undertaken to develop border infrastructure to deal with a worst-case scenario, but the Revenue Commissioners has undertaken work to explore the implications of Brexit.
It has been confirmed that Revenue Commissioner officials have been engaged to determine all “legal and practical implications of a range of scenarios” relating to Brexit.
Senior Government sources have admitted that this includes dealing with the movement of goods and services across the border to the North.
Mr Varadkar has insisted that work on developing borders is not under way and he denied that he stopped the Revenue Commissioners from developing such contingency plans.
“We are certainly not designing customs forms, nor would it be within our remit to do so as it is an exclusive competency of the European Union,” he said. “We are not looking to hire Border staff or anything of that nature and any planning operates on a contingency basis.”
Mr Coveney said he did not think hard border check points will return, and added that “everyone is committed to ensure that doesn’t happpen”.
“I don’t think that we are going to see physical checkpoints on the border,” said Mr Coveney. “Everyone is committed to ensure that doesn’t happen. But that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be border infrastructure somewhere else on the island of Ireland, in terms of checking systems.”
However, he did accept that some form of checking will have to exist if the North does exit the Customs Union.
He said: “If you have some regulatory diversions, there has to be some checking system. If you don’t perate to the same rule group, there needs to be some checking.”
Meanwhile, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern said that he does not see any return to the tower blocks and high security along the border.
“I don’t think there is any possibility of us getting back to tower blocks and high security,” said Mr Ahern. “I don’t think that’s what it is but what we want is a border that allows free trade, free movement to continue.
“Europe are good at finding imaginative solutions and I think we need to get an imaginative solution to this.
“It’s not good enough for the European Union, the British government and the Irish Government to all say they are all in favour of totally open, frictionless border and then we end up that we can’t find one that works.”
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