Hard Brexit worries harden
by Bernard Harbor

Developments in Westminster and Brussels this week deepened uncertainty over the direction of Brexit, with three options – no deal, a version of Teresa May’s deal, and no Brexit – all still on the table. There were also mixed views on whether, and for how long, the EU might agree to an extension of the process, with protaganists and commentators unsure of how to call the situation.

The Irish Government’s preparations for a disruptive ‘no deal’ Brexit continued as, last week, the Irish-international Freight Association warned that as many as 3,000 extra customs agents would be needed in the event of a UK crash-out.

It predicted a ten-fold increase – from five to 50 million a year – in the number of customs, safety, and transit declarations needed in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.

Last month finance minister Paschal Donohoe said 400 extra customs staff will be recruited before the end of the March, with another 200 to come on stream soon after that. He said he would also provide extra resources to Revenue if they were needed.

Earlier this week, Fórsa official Derek Mullen told the union’s Consultative Council, which brings together representatives from all branches, that staffing discussions were also underway in agriculture, revenue, and other relevant departments.

Meanwhile, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has called on the Government to abandon plans for tax cuts, and instead earmark €500 million to deal with the possible fallout of a hard Brexit. In a briefing document published in February, ICTU says a British crash-out from the EU later this month would bring substantial job losses, food price hikes, and a dent in public finances.

The implications of a no-deal Brexit, ICTU’s fourth Brexit briefing, says fears of a hard Brexit have increased, but argues for the softest possible settlement between the UK and the EU.

“The best way to achieve this is to agree the closest possible relationship between the UK and the EU, ideally with the entire UK staying in the single market and the customs union. Only by achieving this can we ensure that jobs and citizens’ and workers’ rights are not negatively affected,” it says.

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