Ministers unveil emergency no-deal Brexit plan to waive Northern Ireland border checks and slash tariffs

Posted On: 
13th March 2019

Britain will waive all checks at the Irish border and axe the vast majority of tariffs on imports to the UK under a no-deal Brexit, the Government has confirmed.

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said the plans would 'help support British jobs and avoid potential price spikes that would hit the poorest households the hardest'.
Credit: 
PA

The "temporary" plans were unveiled just hours after Theresa May's Brexit deal was again defeated in the House of Commons and as MPs prepared to vote on whether or not to back leaving the EU without a deal.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said the move was a "real term consequence of the votes in the House of Commons last night".

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Under the proposals to help Britain cope with a no-deal Brexit, 87% of all imports to Britain by value will be eligible for zero-tariff access - up from 80% at present.

The Government also confirmed that import tariffs will not apply to EU goods crossing into Northern Ireland from the Republic, while no new checks or controls on goods moving across the border will be introduced.

Goods crossing the Irish border are currently waved through without checks because of Britain's membership of the European Union. Under a no-deal outcome, the Government said it will instead ask businesses to self-report the movement of goods, while an online system will be set up to collect VAT payments.

Trade Minister George Hollingbery said: “Our priority is securing a deal with the EU as this will avoid disruption to our global trading relationships.

“However, we must prepare for all eventualities. If we leave without a deal, we will set the majority of our import tariffs to zero, whilst maintaining tariffs for the most sensitive industries.

“This balanced approach will help support British jobs and avoid potential price spikes that would hit the poorest households the hardest.”

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

“But we will do what 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.”

'SLEDGEHAMMER'

Mr Barclay described the changes as "a modest liberalisation".

He said: "It is a temporary measure. This is for a short term while we engage with business to see what the real-term consequences are. Our approach is shaped by the fact we need to abide by the law, and the WTO legal requirements require a consistency between what we do with a most favoured nation approach.

"The aim is to be price neutral and take a balanced approach, but it is a real term consequence of the votes in the House of Commons last night."

But Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the CBI business lobby group, said the plan "tells us everything that is wrong with a no-deal scenario".

She told the BBC's Today programme: "What we are hearing is the biggest change in terms of trade this country has faced since the mid-19th century being imposed on this country with no consultation with business, no time to prepare.

"This is no way to run a country."

The CBI boss added: "This is a sledgehammer for our economy."

MPs will vote on Wednesday night on whether to approve the UK leaving the EU without a deal.