No trade talks before UK exit

RTÉ  reported this week that the government has been involved in “technical discussions” with London and Brussels on how to minimise the need for customs checks on the island of Ireland once Britain leaves the EU. That clearly did not go down too well with EU Economy Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, who was in Dublin to speak at a conference on corporation tax: “I’m commissioner for customs …There can be no discussion about customs as long as the UK is a member of the EU.” In other words, first you leave, then we talk trade. So that talk cannot even begin until 2019, and according to Finance Minister Michael Noonan at the same confererence, it will take at least six years to work out a new trade agreement. In the meantime, tariffs and customs are a racing certainty.

Anyone who can remember the queues of lorries outside Newry and Dundalk will shudder at the term ‘customs clearance’, but that was a main topic at a transport seminar in Dundalk organised by the Department of Transport. There is a presumption, as yet untested, that Irish exporters will be able to send sealed containers on trucks via Holyhead and Dover to the continent provided they have had customs ‘pre-clearance’ in Dublin Port. The seminar was told that best-practice customs clearance procedure takes about eight minutes, but at peak times in Dublin port that would mean a 15-km tailback.