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Friday, 11th January 2019

Breathnach calls for plans to avoid cross border smuggling to be activated

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The Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs and Trade and Defence Committee, Brendan Smith, TD (left) and Vice chair, Deputy Declan Breathnach pictured with Adam Price, the Leader of Plaid Cymru (centre) during a visit by the pair to the National Assembly for Wales, to discuss BREXIT and its implications for the Good Friday Agreement.

Fianna Fáil TD for Louth, Declan Breathnach, who is also Vice Chair of the Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, has expressed his concern at the lack of urgency with which the Government is activating contingency plans to protect businesses from a hard Brexit.

Deputy Breathnach was commenting following a warning by the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Mr David Sterling, who predicted that there will be an upsurge in smuggling and damage to law-abiding firms in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“For many years, smuggling proved to be a major enterprise for criminals along the border counties” Deputy Brethnach said. “Such is the scale of smuggling that retail jobs have been lost and local retailers have been forced out of business.

“The problem has always existed, with nine out of ten border retailers believing that the trade of smuggled goods impacts their profits by 5-10%, however with Brexit fast approaching, the problem will only get worse.”

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“The head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service has expressed his serious reservations that that even if both the UK and Irish authorities do not impose checks at the border, which they have said they won’t, businesses would still face new legal obligations particularly in relation to customs. This would likely lead to an increase in the scale and significance of smuggling and organised crime.

“Given that we are facing the real prospect of a no-deal Brexit; this represents a colossal disturbance to the Irish economy. The Government must immediately seek approval at EU level for current State aid rules to be adapted for a temporary period.

“Even at this late stage it would make a huge difference to small and medium businesses that need every effort to be made to secure support for them to protect them from a hard Brexit. It represents just one way in which the Government could provide border SME’s a modicum of support”, Breathnach concluded.

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