NI fac­ing black­outs if there’s no-deal Brexit, warns UK Govern­ment

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS | POLITICS - BY PA PO­LIT­I­CAL STAFF

A NO-DEAL Brexit could threaten elec­tric­ity black­outs in North­ern Ire­land, dis­rupt Chan­nel Tun­nel rail ser­vices and cost the UK free trade agree­ments with more than 70 non-EU coun­tries around the world, the Govern­ment has warned.

The lat­est round of guid­ance pa­pers is­sued by White­hall de­part­ments high­lighted rafts of bu­reau­cratic and lo­gis­ti­cal prob­lems which could be thrown up if the UK crashes out of the EU next March with­out a deal.

The 29 pa­pers made up the fi­nal tranche of a to­tal 104 doc­u­ments spell­ing out prepa­ra­tions which the Govern­ment be­lieves com­pa­nies, or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­di­vid­u­als should be mak­ing for the pos­si­bil­ity of a dis­or­derly exit from the EU.

Their pub­li­ca­tion was com­pleted just five days be­fore the Euro­pean Coun­cil sum­mit in Brus­sels at which it is hoped that a with­drawal agree­ment will be struck.

An ar­ray of pos­si­ble prob­lems in­cluded:

Pro­fes­sion­als like doc­tors, phar­ma­cists and ar­chi­tects will no longer have their qual­i­fi­ca­tions au­to­mat­i­cally recog­nised in the EU;

Live­stock breed­ers could lose en­ti­tle­ments to ex­tend pro­grammes on the con­ti­nent;

The cost of im­ported cav- iar and fash­ion items made from an­i­mal skins could rise;

The UK ex­port trade in rough di­a­monds could stop.

Brexit Sec­re­tary Do­minic Raab said: “Se­cur­ing a good deal with our EU part­ners re­mains our top pri­or­ity.

“But if the EU doesn’t match the am­bi­tion and prag­ma­tism we’ve shown, we have the plans in place to avoid, mit­i­gate or man­age the risk of no-deal — and make a suc­cess of Brexit.”

How­ever, shadow Brexit sec­re­tary Sir Keir Starmer said that min­is­ters had “barely scratched the sur­face” of what would need to be done in the event of no-deal.

“The Govern­ment has yet to ad­mit that a no-deal would re­quire a raft of sub­stan­tial leg­is­la­tion to be rushed through Par­lia­ment, cru­cial stop-gap agree­ments with the EU on mat­ters re­lat­ing to North­ern Ire­land and se­cu­rity, and the re­cruit­ment of thou­sands of cus­toms of­fi­cials,” said Sir Keir.

“None of this is go­ing to be done or ready by March 2019.

“The truth is the only rea­son the Tories are talk­ing about no-deal is be­cause their civil war on Europe has put any chance of a good deal for Bri­tain at risk. It’s time min­is­ters stopped ar­gu­ing with them­selves and put the na­tional in­ter­est first.”

One prepa­ra­tion doc­u­ment re­leased by the De­part­ment for Busi­ness ac­knowl­edged that there was a risk that the sin­gle elec­tric­ity mar­ket on the is­land of Ire­land “may not be able to con­tinue” in a nodeal sce­nario, risk­ing black­outs north of the bor­der.

An­other pa­per, from the De­part­ment for In­ter­na­tional Trade, said the UK would lose the ben­e­fits of about 40 EU agree­ments de­liv­er­ing pref­er­en­tial tar­iffs and en­hanced mar­ket ac­cess to more than 70 non-EU coun­tries, which be­tween them ac­count for 12% of Bri­tain’s trade.

“In the event of a ‘no-deal’, EU trade agree­ments will cease to ap­ply to the UK when we leave the EU,” it warned.

DIT said that, in its prepa­ra­tions for Brexit, it is seek­ing to forge new bi­lat­eral deals with 70 coun­tries cur­rently cov­ered by EU trade agree­ments which will be “iden­ti­cal or sub­stan­tially the same” as those Bri­tain is giv­ing up.

It warned that, even if such deals are reached, there may be “prac­ti­cal changes” to the way trade takes place with each coun­try. It con­firmed if these are not in place in time for a no-deal Brexit, ex­ports and im­ports to the coun­tries will be sub­ject to tar­iffs un­der World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion rules.

SNP Europe spokesman Stephen Gethins said the tech­ni­cal pa­pers should serve as a “wake-up call”.

“Day by day the price of a Tory hard Brexit be­comes clearer,” said Mr Gethins.

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