This week, the Irish Government announced that they are stepping up preparations for a no-deal Brexit.
A no-deal Brexit would mean the UK exiting the EU on 29th March 2019, without a Withdrawal Agreement (with its accompanying transition arrangements and “backstop” for Northern Ireland), thereby activating WTO rules requiring tariffs to be paid on goods and customs borders to be set up overnight.
The Cabinet held a meeting in Derrynane, Co Kerry (Wednesday) to discuss plans to recruit hundreds of new customs officers and veterinary inspectors and to develop customs infrastructure at ports and airports.
All EU Member States were encouraged to make these preparations by Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier at the EU Leaders Summit in June. Equally the UK Government has pledged to do the same, in its political statement released following its meeting in Chequers at the beginning of July, where a position on the future EU-UK relationship was finally agreed.
Events in Westminster this week, have increased the sense of alarm about the fate of the negotiations and seem to have increased the likelihood that an agreement will not be reached.
It has become clear that the UK Prime Minister Theresa May lacks concrete support for her hard-fought White Paper outlining the Government’s position on their future relationship with the EU; concession made to Brexiteers on this position through amendments to key customs and trade legislation in the House of Commons have thoroughly muddied any clarity the paper aims to provide.
It is of course prudent and sensible of the Irish Government to prepare for a no deal Brexit. However, it must be remembered that there is an alternative to a no deal outcome.
Rather than seeing the only alternative to an agreement by October or even December as being an no-deal outcome, ICOS believes the Article 50 negotiations should be extended beyond March 2019, as provided for under the Treaties.
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