Coveney wArns UK risks busi­ness over bor­der

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY SHONA MUR­RAY

THE UK’s ap­proach to the Ir­ish bor­der prob­lem is “not com­pat­i­ble” with the so­lu­tions Ire­land needs, the Repub­lic’s For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter has warned.

Si­mon Coveney said ideas put for­ward to deal with the thorny is­sue of cus­toms and the bor­der so far — such as waiver schemes — were “nei­ther com­pre­hen­sive or cred­i­ble”.

He was speak­ing as a West­min­ster re­port cau­tioned that fail­ure to have a new cus­toms sys­tem in place by the Brexit dead­line in 2019 would be “cat­a­strophic” if there is no vi­able fall-back op­tion — with the risk of huge dis­rup­tion for busi­nesses.

The cross-party House of Com­mons Pub­lic Ac­counts Com­mit­tee has warned of huge queues at Dover and food be­ing left to rot in trucks at the bor­der.

The num­ber of dec­la­ra­tions which HM Rev­enue and Cus­toms must process each year could in­crease al­most five-fold af­ter Brexit — from 55m to 255m. But HMRC does not yet have the fund­ing to in­crease the ca­pac­ity of its new Cus­toms Dec­la­ra­tion Ser­vice (CDS).

Its re­port stressed that “much re­mains to be done” to have an ef­fec­tive CDS sys­tem in place on time and urged the Trea­sury to en­sure that fund­ing is in place to de­velop con­tin­gency plans to avoid gaps in the ser­vice.

The com­mit­tee’s chair­woman, Labour MP Meg Hil­lier, said: “Fail­ure to have a vi­able cus­toms sys­tem in place be­fore the UK’s planned exit from the EU would wreak havoc for UK busi­ness, trade and our in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion. Con­fi­dence would col­lapse amid the po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic ef­fects.”

How­ever, the pa­per also notes London’s po­si­tion is to main­tain a com­mon travel area with the Repub­lic so there is no bor­der.

Mr Coveney said: “It would be much easier to deal with an or­derly Brexit if Bri­tain were to be part of the same cus­toms union — if Bri­tain were to agree to avoid reg­u­la­tory di­ver­gence from the stan­dards and reg­u­la­tion within the Sin­gle Mar­ket. If the rule­book for pro­duc­ing food for ex­am­ple is dif­fer­ent in North­ern Ire­land to Ire­land, well then of course that cre­ates the need for bar­ri­ers be­cause you have to have a check­ing sys­tem and so on.

“We find it very dif­fi­cult to see how you can have a func­tion­ing all-is­land econ­omy.

“It’s very hard to main­tain that post-Brexit if North­ern Ire­land is not part of the same cus­toms union, if North­ern Ire­land has a dif­fer­ent reg­u­la­tory en­vi­ron­ment.”

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