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Smugglers’ paradise? No deal Brexit plans would keep the Irish border open

Smugglers’ paradise? No deal Brexit plans would keep the Irish border open while stinging tariffs are slapped on the rest of the UK

  • UK to eliminate import tariffs to avoid hard border between Ireland and NI
  • No deal plan would see import taxes applied between Republic and mainland UK
  • Critics have pointed out NI would be treated differently to rest of Great Britain 
  • Fears that the Irish border could turn as key route for smugglers from the EU 

Britain will not introduce any new checks or tariffs on EU goods moving across the land border into Northern Ireland in the event of no deal Brexit – but critics warn it could become a route for smugglers into the UK.  

Border agents could face a battle with profiteer gangs creating a black market for EU goods including cars and food after March 29, critics have said.

The worrying situation could arise because new tariffs will be slapped on imports to the UK mainland from the Republic by sea or air if Britain crashes out of the EU.

But there will be no charges if it enters the UK via Northern Ireland by land. 

Today the European Commission said it was unhappy about the proposed the ‘differential treatment’ of trade on the island of Ireland.  

Today UK Government has announced that it will not introduce any new checks or controls on goods moving across the land border into Northern Ireland (pictured at Newry) if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal

Fears that the Northern Irish border could become ‘bandit country’ again 

There is a long history of smuggling across the Northern Irish border, which was established in 1923. 

Britain set up 15 ‘approved frontier crossing points’ (pictured in 1998) and smugglers started their work soon afterwards.

Profiteers set about swimming cattle across lakes at night, hiding butter and cheese in their underpants and even stupefying pigs by force-feeding them Guinness so they would pass out on boat journeys from south to north, according to Queen Mary University in London.

Others stuffed bicycle handlebars with smaller items and pushed babies in prams with false-bottoms to hide items from soldiers standing at border posts.     

In the other direction white bread and contraceptives from the UK were smuggled into the Republic where condoms were banned and coarse brown bread was the staple.

But during the 30-year Troubles the land along the 300-mile long border became known as ‘bandit country’.

The British Army was stuck in an constant battle with the IRA as members carried guns and explosives into the UK and often came under attack themselves. 

Many of the weapons came to Ireland from America and Gaddafi’s Libya. 

The IRA’s main gun runner in the United States was George Harrison, an IRA veteran, who lived in New York. 

Harrison bought at least 3,000 guns for the IRA from a Corsican arms dealer who helped smuggle the weapons into the Republic.

Within two years of the Troubles starting in 1969, British police had already grabbed 700 guns and two tonnes of explosives.   

It was only in 2005 the border became invisible due to the Good Friday Agreement signed in 1998.

Smugglers have since turned to cigarettes, alcohol and diesel fuel.

It is estimated that its peak ‘fuel laundering’ – where cheaper agricultural fuel is sold as motor fuel – costing up to £40million a year in lost tax.  

But there are major concerns that tariffs imposed in the event of a No Deal Brexit could increase smuggling activity. 

British ministers said today that products from the EU including beef, pork, chicken, butter, cheese and fish would also be subject to import taxes expected to push up prices in the supermarkets from March 29 if there is no deal. 

For example cars from the EU would be subject to a a 10.6 per tax on the cost of all ‘fully finished’ vehicles – making the prices of an average vehicle surge by £1,500. 

However in a seemingly confusing loophole in no deal plan, Northern Ireland’s border would remain open for at least 12 months and goods entering from the Republic would not face tariffs to preserve the Good Friday agreement. 

However, tariffs will be payable on goods moving from the EU into the rest of the UK via Northern Ireland under a schedule of rates also released on Wednesday.  

The Government insists that this will not create a border down the Irish Sea, as there will be no checks on goods moving between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Instead, normal compliance and intelligence methods will be used to detect any traders attempting to abuse the system. 

Ministers accepted that the new regime will cause ‘concerns’ to Northern Irish businesses and farmers about the impact on their competitiveness .

But they said these were the only steps that could be taken to deliver on the Government’s commitment to avoiding a hard border in the case of no deal.

Under the new regime for Northern Ireland, goods arriving from the Republic will still be subject to the same VAT and excise duty as at present.

Small businesses trading across the border will be able to report VAT online without any new processes at the border.

To protect human, animal and plant health, animals and animal products from outside the EU would be required to enter Northern Ireland through a designated entry point, while regulated plant materials from outside the EU and high-risk plants from inside Europe will require certification and pre-notification.

There will be new UK import requirements such as document checks and registration for a small number of goods such as endangered species and hazardous chemicals which are subject to international agreements.

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said: ‘The Government has been clear that a deal with the European Union is the best outcome for Northern Ireland.

‘But we will do all we can to support people and businesses across Northern Ireland in the event that we leave without a deal.

‘The measures announced today recognise the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland. These arrangements can only be temporary and short term.’

In the case of no-deal, the UK Government is committed to entering discussions urgently with Brussels and Dublin to agree long-term arrangements.

Another massive rebellion and implacable opposition from Labour and the DUP sunk the deal

Another massive rebellion and implacable opposition from Labour and the DUP sunk the deal


Cattle graze in a pasture at the edge of Lough Ree near the River Shannon. Irish Farmers fear the effects of a No Deal Brexit

Cattle graze in a pasture at the edge of Lough Ree near the River Shannon. Irish Farmers fear the effects of a No Deal Brexit

The UK’s proposed tariff regime in the event of a no-deal Brexit would be disastrous for Irish farmers, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has said.

Almost half of all beef produced in the Republic each year ends up in Britain and tariffs could cost the industry to the tune of £685m.

The British government outlined its temporary no-deal Brexit plans on Wednesday, stating that no import tariffs would apply to goods entering Northern Ireland across the Irish border.

The region will be treated differently from the rest of the UK, where tariffs will be imposed on some EU goods if a Brexit deal fails to materialise.

Tariffs of up to 40% in some cases are planned for products being exported from the Republic to the UK.

IFA president Joe Healy said: ‘Our most exposed sectors, particularly beef, simply will not survive the kind of tariffs being talked about. This would have a devastating effect in the rural economy.

‘We export over 50% of our beef to the UK. If this is subject to tariffs, it will be a direct hit of almost 800 million euro on the sector,’ he said.

Fianna Fail agriculture spokesman Charlie McConalogue agreed with the IFA president that the UK’s new arrangements would be ‘disastrous’ for the Irish agri-food sector.

‘I sincerely hope that this is a provocative attempt to persuade MPs to vote against a no-deal scenario when they are asked over the next 24 hours in Westminster,’ Mr McConalogue said.

‘The EU will obviously have to respond to the plans to allow goods to travel freely between the Republic and Northern Ireland in the short term and the Irish government will have to elaborate on their own plans to respond to this plan.

‘The uncertainty is causing massive anxiety with businesses both North and South and will cost jobs soon if not sorted out.’

He called on the Irish government to outline the likely impact of these new tariffs and to put a plan in place to respond.