With Brexit some weeks before the issue of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland hasn’t been more actual. So unless some agreement will be in place, along the 499-km Irish Border checks – in one form or another – would be required as this area will become the only land border between the UK and EU after March. This means different trade rules between the north and the south and of course UK. Neither of the parts would want to risk years of peace and commercial agreement as part of the European single market, nor see problems like in the 70’ or 80’. The signals from Dublin officials are clear. The government wants EU to negotiate as single market with the UK.
In Davos, at the World Economic Forum, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that in the event of UK leaving without a deal “ EU, Ireland and the UK would have to come together in order to honour our commitments to the people of Ireland that there’d be no hard border and agree on full alignment on customers and regulations”, according to Irish Times. “Both the UK and Ireland would have a responsibility to honour the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process”, he added. And “if UK leaves without a deal it will face – enormous difficulties”.
The Prime Minister says also that a hard border is unacceptable but admits checks and controls would be in place one way or another.
In the meantime, Irish government just published no-deal Brexit plans for transport, healthcare, taxation and citizen rights. In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said this is the general scheme of the proposed primary laws that will need to be introduced in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The document that has 17 parts could be discussed in Parliament in February.
Firstly, it’s important that Ireland shares with UK the Common Travel Area which allows rights to Irish and UK citizens separate from the EU rights and allows free movement across countries. Even so the difficult part will be the trade agreements, as different goods such as food and equipments are important both on land and on sea. Also, there is the question of medicines and also the situation of custom taxes.
But what would be the most unfortunate outcome? A border that would leave Ireland isolated together with the UK if custom checks would be in place in France or the Netherlands (Calais and Rotterdam) according to Irish Examiner. Their sources say that in a private meeting with opposition party leaders Prime Minister Varadkar said “unless the Irish question is resolved, the EU could hypothetically move control of any border away from Ireland and onto the continent”.
This comes after the European commission’s chief spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, said a no-deal Brexit will inevitably cause a hard border in Ireland.
With this in mind, the Dublin officials are preparing for the no deal scenario. Omnibus Bill includes:
The Minister for Health and the HSE would cover cost of healthcare provided in the UK under the same conditions as currently e.g. where treatments are not provided under our own healthcare system or for an Irish person who becomes ill while on a visit to the UK and needs immediate health care there.
Currently student support SUSI grants are paid to eligible students who are studying elsewhere in the EU either if there are Irish students in the UK or viceversa.
- Social Protection
The continued payment of 21 social protection benefits, including payments such as old age pensions, illness benefits and child benefit. Workers whose UK-based employer becomes insolvent will also be protected under this legislation.
- Consumer Protection
An adequate degree of consumer protection in place for consumers who have already bought financial service products before the date of Brexit.
PROPOSALS FORKEY SECTORS
Cross border rail services (the Dublin-Belfast Enterprise) and bus services, in order to ensure continued service provision for passengers and commuters on the island of Ireland.
Allow for the continued operation of the all-island Single Electricity Market in the context of a no deal Brexit, pending longer term provisions in this area.
The proposed measures to adjust Income Tax, Capital Tax, Corporation Tax and Stamp Duty legislation seek to ensure continuity for business and citizens in relation to their current access to certain taxation measures. This includes reliefs and allowances as well as the retention of a number of anti-avoidance provisions in the event that the UK is no longer a member of the EU/EEA.
Supports to Business
These provisions will give additional enabling power to Enterprise Ireland to further support businesses through investment, loans and RD&I grants so as to assist Irish businesses in remaining competitive and resilient in a no deal Brexit context.
Justice and Security
To ensure that effective extradition arrangements are maintained between Ireland and the UK and to facilitate ongoing immigration cooperation arrangements when the UK leaves the EU, including in areas which support the Common Travel Area.
And some of the members of the cabinet Are testing options, just like the minister of Agriculture.
There are also critics. The Polish Foreign Affairs Ministers seems to blame in Davos Ireland for stalling the discussions because it doesn’t agree with the backstop. And the Polish PM criticised Ireland because the country opposed to the digital tax applied to big companies, some of which relocated on the island. While the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said a hard border on the island of Ireland would potentially lead to the return of the Troubles, according to The Independent. Would’ve been nice to have an opinion from the UK but chancellor Philip Hammond that was supposed to be on the panel pulled out, writtes the newspaper.
*The 1998 Belfast Agreement is known as the Good Friday Agreement.