What did you do in the negotiations?

What did you do in the negotiations?

There’s a statistic the European Parliament has drawn attention to in an article about the impact of Brexit on Ireland.  It highlights that along the entirety of the EU’s eastern border from Finland to Greece there are 137 crossings. Between Northern Ireland and the Republic the border has 275 land crossings.  Marry that to the amount of cross border activity in terms of people and trade and the scale of the Brexit problem is very apparent.  Then add in East West trade.

Much store is being put on Ireland’s resolve and the EU’s strong language, in particular Guy Verhofstadt remarks that Europe will not  allow Ireland to suffer from the British decision to leave the EU.

But this will not be a one sided deal and the outcome may also depend on events internal to British politics.  The nature of the discussions to date have only scoped out the space for much more meaty discussions to follow.  By way of example a recent IntertradeIreland event in Dublin heard from KPMG about the impact on VAT payments in a possible post Brexit scenario. In short VAT will have to be paid up front by the importer.  That has huge implications for small businesses with tight margins who will have to tie up badly needed cash in a VAT system.

As part of the ongoing talks the Irish issues will have their own strand and it will be extremely important that the border voice is heard at the highest level.  Time is another issue.  Relying on a transition phase of two years will be no good if the major ingredients of the deal have already been decided by the back end of next year or if huge pressure comes on for acceptance of a deal by that time.  Months ahead of March 2019 will be needed for country and EU ratification.

The best advice is to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.  We are still in Deal or No Deal territory.  Preparing should mean voicing at all levels concerns from individuals, communities, businesses, sectors, and representative organisations about the impact the unknown could have for people and trade along that 500km border.

No point afterwards asking what could you have contributed to the negotiation.