Brexit Bulletin, 12 October 2018

Oct 11, 2018

A working dinner on Wednesday next in Brussels will decide whether sufficient progress has been made in the Brexit negotiations to allow for a deal to be formalised and finalised in November.  You can expect that all eyes will be on the outcome of that meal and if it’s a no… Day 1 preparations may need to be ramped up.

Reports emerging this week appear to suggest that things are looking more positive in terms of reaching a deal.  Budget 2019 was released in Ireland on Tuesday and while Brexit permeated through many aspects of Minister Donohoe’s speech, there were no plain measures announced to cope with a no deal Brexit; nor were vast amounts of money set aside just in case.  Furthermore, the European Commission decided not to publish no-deal papers this week and  EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said on Wednesday that 80-85 percent of issues have been resolved.  Acknowledging that the Irish border issue is still a difficult one to resolve, he was hopeful that a Withdrawal Agreement, which would allow a transition period until 2020, will be signed into force early next year. 

Speaking at the Eurochambre's European Parliament of Enterprises 2018, Mr Barnier spelled out some practical measures on how the backstop arrangement (needed to prevent a hard border with physical checks on the island of Ireland in the event of a no deal) could work:

  1. Northern Ireland would remain part of the EU’s single market; therefore checks will be needed for goods shipped from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland.This would involve UK companies filling in customs declarations online in advance of the shipment arriving in Northern Ireland and scanners could be used on ferries or at ports to scan barcodes of lorries or containers
  2. Regulatory checks could be carried out by market surveillance authorities at the premises of companies in Northern Ireland.

Mr Barnier did say that in line with strict EU rules, checks of live animals and animal products need to be carried out at the border.

The UK have different ideas of how the backstop would work and do not want Northern Ireland to be separate from the rest of the UK.  This was highlighted by the DUP this week who said that they would vote down the UK budget if this is not a hard line in the negotiations.  So time will tell.

What’s Michel Barnier take on the issue?  “Brexit was not our choice. It is the choice of the UK. Our proposal tries to help the UK in managing the negative fall-out of Brexit in Northern Ireland, in a way that respects the territorial integrity of the UK”.

Read all of our Brexit updates and Back to Brexit Basics on the dedicated Brexit section of our website.