Revenue comments on Brexit Border Control reinforces Argument for Special Designated Status for the North within the EU – Doherty
Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said that confirmation received from the Office of the Revenue Commissioners that it is currently examining the establishment of customs controls along the border post-Brexit has further reinforced the argument for Designated Special Status for the North within the EU, adding that any restrictions placed on cross-border travel will be a disaster for the island of Ireland.
Deputy Doherty made the comments following yesterday’s sitting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance to discuss recent development and future negotiations in relation to Brexit.
Speaking after the session, which featured contributions from the Second Secretary General at the Department of An Taoiseach, John Callinan, officials from the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, as well as a number of senior civil servants, Deputy Doherty said:
“Sinn Féin’s position, and the position which has been adopted by a considerable number of Deputies in this House is that the north of Ireland, which is being dragged out of the EU against its will, must receive a Special Designated Status within the EU.
“When asked by Sinn Féin if such a status has been sought by him and his team at the Department as part of their dealings with EU colleagues, Mr Callinan replied to state that this request has not specifically been sought to date – this is deeply concerning to hear.
“Regarding the question I posed to Revenue officials on plans to set up custom controls along the border post-Brexit, the reply provided by Revenue officials was unambiguous and it was made clear that some form of interventions along the border are actively being considered as part of the state’s Brexit contingency plans.
“Responding to my questioning, Mr Irwin clarified that Revenue is anticipating the setting up of customs checks within some 10 to 15km of the border with the north, and he also warned of a roaming border patrol being brought in to police and monitor those checks.
“Revenue has also revealed that such controls will, at the very least, likely include electronic declarations on container traffic, representing up to 8 per cent of traffic passing the border, with the possibility of diverting freight traffic also being looked at by officials.
“This disclosure made yesterday by Revenue during the Committee has brought the shocking reality of what Brexit will likely mean for our island out in the open for all to see.
“If anyone was sceptical about the potential consequences of Brexit, or if anyone was in anyway doubtful about the prospect of border restrictions post withdrawal before now, then yesterday’s session of the Committee has well and truly dashed any such optimism that Brexit will not cause considerable harm to this island.
“Obviously, any restrictions on traffic and consignments entering and leaving the north will have a devastating impact on the economies both north and south. Businesses on both sides will suffer greatly should what was revealed yesterday by Revenue come to pass and that is simply stating an undeniable fact.
“Such consequences will arguably be hardest felt in border regions, including in my own county of Donegal where communities there along the border are so interlinked with their neighbours just across the border in the north – not just economically but socially also.
“It’s obviously helpful to have now received some clarity today from Revenue during this afternoon’s sitting of the Committee however, the fact that any border control measures are on the table at all and are in fact actively being looked into has only served to further reinforce Sinn Féin’s calls for the Government to demand that Special Status for the North within the EU is included as part of the EU’s Brexit negotiating guidelines.
“Furthermore, the economic warnings which the Committee heard today from officials also adds credit to the suggestion which I made during this afternoon’s session that the negotiating team must now push to secure agreement from our EU partners that a relaxation of State Aid rules for supporting enterprise, which is allowable in certain exceptional circumstances, may be utilised by the state at any time to mitigate any potential harmful economic consequences of Brexit on the economy here.”