The Government and officials have for the first time warned about the prospect of checks on goods crossing the Northern Irish border and the end of frictionless trade in the event of a disorderly Brexit.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney said “some action somewhere in the economy” would be necessary to protect the EU’s single market, and ensure Ireland is “not forced out” of the bloc’s trading area.
With just 16 weeks to the Brexit deal deadline, the Government admitted it was in talks with Brussels on how to ensure goods leaving Ireland were “guaranteed”.
A report for Cabinet yesterday outlined the reality of no deal, stating: “The impact of tariffs, and of the customs and SPS requirements and associated checks necessary to preserve Ireland’s full participation in the island economy and would involve additional costs for, and the disruption to, businesses throughout the island, particularly those in Northern Ireland.”
Mr Coveney declined to give specifics about checkpoints or zones with a no-deal, but did insist there would be no such points at or near the border that could pose a “security risk”.
In January, EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned of there would be checks on foods and goods transiting through Ireland if he UK crashes out of the EU.
Mr Coveney said the EU and Ireland were trying to find a “solution”, “suboptimal to the Withdrawal Agreement”, that prevented fresh border infrastructure and protected the single market.
However, pressed by reporters about the no-deal plans, Mr Coveney later said: “We have done a lot of work on customs and tariffs, and how they would be collected. The really difficult area is around SPS checks for agri-food products and the reality is that a lot of the goods that cross the border, moving North and South in terms of the all-island economy, are linked to agriculture.”