British Brexit advice: just ask Dublin

As the British Government releases technical notes on the implications of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, Irish traders and businesses owners are again faced with the definitive ‘word of the day’: uncertainty. eolas evaluates the implications of the notes on Irish business, trade and travel.

As we steadily approach the March deadline for Brexit negotiations, a multitude of questions remain unanswered around the future implications on trade, business and the nature of the border. Over two years since the referendum triggered the UK’s departure from the European Union, business leaders north and south have repeatedly called for more clarity from all parties involved. The release of technical notes surrounding the prospect of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, however, has further obfuscated the future of cross-border trade in Ireland.

With the burning question of the border remaining unresolved, businesses and organisations involved in cross-border trade have been instructed by the British to consult the Irish Government in the increasingly-likely event that the UK concludes negotiations with the EU with no deal. Whilst British authorities have reaffirmed a commitment to act in the “best interests of Northern Ireland”, little consolation has been offered to Irish businesses, who are now faced with the potential bureaucratic realities of post-Brexit trade – including import and export declarations, VAT payments and security declarations.

In what has been criticised as a deferral of responsibility, the technical notes released by the British Government have urged Irish businesses on either side of the border to “consider whether you will need advice from the Irish government about preparations you need to make”.

Irish businesses have also been faced with the prospect of hiring additional staff, as well as the services of customs brokers in the wake of the technical notes’ publication, which suggest that importers will now have to register as “economic operators” who will have to classify their products according to tariffs set by the World Trade Organisation.

In one document, Britain’s Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab offers ambiguous statements in regard to cross-border trade in Ireland. Whilst admitting that negotiating a deal on trade with the EU remains “the responsibility of the UK Government, as the sovereign government in Northern Ireland”, the Secretary simultaneously advises businesses to “consider how a ‘no deal’ scenario could affect them” and to “begin taking steps to mitigate against such a risk”.

The papers also raise concerns about the potential rise in cost of credit and debit card payments between the UK and the EU, with the prospect of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit threatening the current ban on surcharges. Beyond the threat of ballooning transaction costs, traders have also been warned of slower processing times for transactions made using the euro currency.

Government representatives have reacted to the release of the technical notes with scepticism, with Tánaiste and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, describing the announcement as solely “a matter for the UK Government”. At the same time, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has announced plans to hire 1,000 customs and veterinary inspectors to deal with potentially significant rule changes in regard to cross-border trade in Ireland in the absence of clarity in current negotiations.

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