Published On: Fri, May 19th, 2017

No EU a la carte…are you sure? Ireland demands special single market status after Brexit

Dublin revealed yesterday it will seek a special settlement with Brussels if the upcoming divorce talks fail to yield a comprehensive agreement on future trade relations with Britain. 

Irish ministers want to opt out of a number of single market rules in the event of a no-deal scenario, especially strict EU laws dictating the financial assistance governments can provide to companies. 

Officials say that Ireland must be treated as a special case because it is the most economically vulnerable of all the member states to Brexit which could produce a “serious disturbance” on the Emerald Isle. 

Brussels has historically been ferociously defensive of the single market’s rules, which it sees as set in stone, and attracted criticism for pursuing Italy over cash its government provided to areas devastated by earthquakes.

Senior EU leaders and eurocrats have all insisted there can be “no cherry-picking” or any “a la carte” access to the economic area and that participants must abide by all its rules. 

And they are likely to be extremely wary of any requests coming from Dublin, given the potential to open up a Pandora’s box of problems which would see other member states demand their own concessions. 

Outgoing Taioseach Enda Kenny said yesterday that his country would more than likely have to ask the EU for some form of specific assistance after Brexit or face economic catastrophe. 

He pointed out that due to Ireland’s incredibly strong trading links to the UK a no-deal scenario would create “serious disturbance” to an economy which is currently performing amongst the best in the eurozone. 

Aside from exemption from state aid rules Dublin could also ask for an injection of cash to help see it through, although it is unclear how the bloc would afford this without its second biggest net contributor.  

Mr Kenny said: “More than likely [we] will have to make a case for assistance from the European Union in this regard because all of the economic reports would indicate that Ireland would be most adversely impacted by a difficult Brexit.

“While we are the strongest and fastest growing economy (in the EU)…these shocks and problems are of major significance for us.”

Ireland’s top civil servant overseeing Brexit planning, John Callinan, insisted earlier this week such a request will only be made if it becomes clear that the Brexit talks are not going to yield a good trade deal. 

Irish businesses fear Brexit will lead to a costly rise in tariffs, paperwork and transit times, whilst Mr Kenny said there were no answers yet as to whether exporters to Britain would face tariff charges.

There are also fears over the future status of the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, which the EU has made one of its key objectives in the first phase of the divorce talks. 

Tony Buckley, assistant secretary for customs at Ireland’s Revenue Commissioners, has insisted that any disruption at the frontier will be “minimal” and that routine checks will not be put in place. 

He said customs posts would not be needed and being an island at the end of the EU supply chain meant Ireland could rely to a greater extent on self assessment with the small number of required checks made away from the border.

Mr Buckley said: “The main image that comes to people minds when they think of an border is cars being stopped and searched. Not going to happen. There’s no reason for it. 

“We have some 300 border crossings, we haven’t the faintest intention to close any of those or interfere with them in any way.”

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