British government advice to consult with Irish civil servants over how best to prepare for a no-deal Brexit is “odd” and “embarrassing”, several Irish Brexit sources have said.
UK Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab this week released a tranche of 25 ‘technical’ documents outlining the implications for businesses and consumers should the UK walk away from EU negotiations without a new relationship.
The technical assessments recommend that businesses unclear on how best to make contingencies for the UK crashing out of the EU should contact the Irish Government.
“We would recommend that, if you trade across the land border, you should consider whether you will need advice from the Irish Government about preparations you need to make,” says the document.
One Brexit source said the document outlined how the Tories “still haven’t a clue on what they’re doing” and they are “still fighting with each other”.
“On one hand, you have this situation where they’re actually considering a no-deal Brexit, but on the other are saying they want a deal without moving red lines,” they said.
Another source told the Irish Independent the advice was an “embarrassment” to the British civil service.
“When you finally came to publishing the information the public really need to know, the advice is ‘go ask a foreign government’,” they said.
Some observers say the advisory was also an indirect missive to the Irish Government that it bears some of the responsibility in coming up with a solution to the Border issue.
Hilary Benn, the Labour MP and chair of the UK Brexit select committee, described the advice as an “abdication of responsibility”.
The official explanation from a country dead set on controlling its own sovereignty is that its future “is not entirely up to London”, said another senior source.
“Essentially, the Unionists in [Northern Ireland] have been told by London to talk to Dublin – it really shows you that nothing has moved on in the last few weeks, and we’ve very little time left.”
The papers warn of the increased cost of credit card usage and banking, including the threat that British bank customers with accounts in other European member states might lose access to their money.
Businesses would also face a raft of new administrative burdens. Companies were told they should consider “the services of a customs broker, freight forwarder or logistics provider to help, or alternatively secure the appropriate software and authorisations”.
Meanwhile, the October deadline for a deal on the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement – the terms and conditions under which the UK leaves the bloc – is looming. It includes the Irish protocol or backstop, guaranteeing no border is ever erected on the island of Ireland.
However, Irish and EU sources have confirmed this deadline will most likely lapse and mid-to-late November will be the new cut-off point.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has made further calls to ‘de-dramatise’ the Irish backstop issue which is the most intractable issue in closing the withdrawal agreement.