Publish Irish border plans to avoid 'chaotic' no-deal, Brexit committee tells DExEU

The committee is the latest group to throw its weight behind calls to make securing a withdrawal agreement an “urgent priority”.

Photo: PA.

The government must set out how it plans to avoid regulatory checks on the Irish border, one of the greatest hurdles to securing an EU withdrawal agreement, to move forward Brexit negotiations, a prominent select committee has urged.

Leaving the EU in March 2019 without having signed a withdrawal agreement would be “chaotic and damaging” for the UK, the Exiting the EU Committee said in a report that appeared to challenge the government’s claim it is close to reaching a deal.

“The government’s urgent priority must be to secure a withdrawal agreement. This would provide much needed certainty to citizens and businesses in the UK and the European Union, including the transition/implementation period up to the end of December 2020,” the report said.


The Irish border issue is the biggest barrier to reaching such an agreement, the committee said. The European Commission has said it has no objection in principle to a UK-wide “backstop” to prevent a hard border in Ireland, but the two sides have yet to agree the terms. “Time is running out” to reach a solution, the committee warned.

“Without an agreed backstop, there will be no withdrawal agreement and therefore no transition/implementation period,” the report warned, adding that “time is running out” to agree terms.

Other significant hurdles remain to reaching a withdrawal agreement, according to the report, which also warned the UK may need to take a different tack if the EU rejects Theresa May’s Chequers proposals for trade and tariffs.

As well as working to secure a withdrawal agreement, the committee urged the government to step up its efforts to mitigate the harm that could arise if it fails to do so.

MPs urged the Department for Exiting the European Union to publish more information to help individuals and businesses prepare for the possibility of a no-deal scenario. It welcomed the government’s commitment to publish further technical notices throughout September, saying it was “particularly important” a notice tackling the Irish border issue be published.

DExEU should also publish the country by country assessments it has carried out of the effect of no deal on EU member states’ economies, the committee said.

"Time is now running out to secure a withdrawal agreement,” said Hilary Benn, the committee’s chair.

“Without one, there would be no transitional period and this would leave businesses and citizens facing great uncertainty in just seven months’ time. There are, however, significant problems yet to be resolved.”

The report follows numerous warnings about the progress of the government’s preparations for Brexit. This week, the Institute for Government said time had run out for the government to complete all of its preparations for Brexit, and that “just a fraction” of projects would be completed in time if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal.

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