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Authorities will 'turn a blind eye' to help avoid Brexit chaos at Border

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An anti-Brexit sticker on a roadsign beside the Hands Across the Divide peace statue in Co Derry. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

An anti-Brexit sticker on a roadsign beside the Hands Across the Divide peace statue in Co Derry. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

An anti-Brexit sticker on a roadsign beside the Hands Across the Divide peace statue in Co Derry. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Efforts to avoid chaos at the Border in the days after a hard Brexit will involve authorities "turning a blind eye" in some areas of cross-frontier trade, Government and EU sources have signalled.

The Herald has also learned that some Government officials privately believe the European Commission may not immediately insist on stringent checks and controls in the weeks after October 31 as the UK is not expected to diverge from EU regulations and standards overnight.

Amid ongoing secret talks between the Government and the EU on no-deal contingency plans, ministers are coming under growing pressure to tell the Irish public exactly what will happen if there is a hard Brexit.

Last night, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said the Government needed to "get its act together" as the country is now "facing an abyss".

Practical

"Time is running out and the Government needs to get its act together and prepare properly for a hard Brexit. The time for pontification is over; real practical steps have to be taken now," Mr Martin said.

"Ireland is facing an abyss and there is little evidence of companies actually being prepared for what may happen after October 31.

"As an island, we are facing thousands of job losses; we are unclear yet about how goods are actually going to be transported between north and south and how the single market is going to be protected.

"The Government must outline on how the most vulnerable sectors are going to be protected and also outline the extra efforts on the rapid actions that are needed to protect companies."

Talks between Dublin and Brussels are focusing on checks and controls that will happen away from the Border and at factories and ports in order to protect the integrity of the EU single market and customs union.

But privately, officials on both sides acknowledge it may not be possible to police all areas and sectors of the economy, particularly in the immediate aftermath of a UK crash-out.

One senior commission figure has privately acknowledged in discussions with companies based along the Border that it may be necessary for authorities to "turn a blind eye" with some sectors in the weeks after a hard Brexit, with the likes of mechanics, engineers and plumbers mentioned.

A Government source suggested that officials in Dublin and Brussels would be pragmatic in their approach to the Border. "It suits everyone to say there will be chaos on November 1 after Brexit," the source said. "Nothing will happen straight away."

A second Government source said the EU was very conscious of the need to preserve the peace process.

"The reality is that the UK aren't going to diverge on day one," they said.

"They're not going to turn around and change all of the laws on October 31. There will be some period of grace there, just in terms of the practicalities of it."

A third source cautioned that a no-deal Brexit would be an "emergency" whereby the legal order on the island of Ireland will change as the UK becomes a third country.

But they added: "Ireland is not going to be given a hospital pass… work with commission is not concluded, it's ongoing."

Amid a growing expectation among ministers that a no-deal Brexit is likely, the Cabinet will meet for the first time since July on Tuesday.

A Government spokesperson said discussions with the EU had the twin objectives of protecting the single market and ensuring no hard Border.