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Northern Ireland plans are self-destruction, warns trade expert

[ September 14, 2020   //   ]

The government’s controversial Internal Market Bill – which could overturn the Brexit Northern Ireland protocol is less an emergency button, more a self-destruct switch, says head of consumer research at parcel broker ParcelHero, David Jinks.

The day before, Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, defended the Government’s controversial Internal Market Bill on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday saying: ‘This is all about insurance planning, if you like, a break-the-glass-in-an-emergency provision.’

However, said Jinks, approving the bill could scupper the EU-UK Brexit trade deal, leading to the introduction of £11bn-worth of new tariffs at EU borders. It may also create a harder border with the Republic of Ireland, causing significant delays and unravelling plans UK exporters have been developing all year.

He added: ‘Introducing this bill knowingly undermines the EU Withdrawal Agreement that was given official Royal Assent only in January. If implemented, it would have a significant impact on the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is a crucial part of the legally-binding Withdrawal Agreement agreed by the UK and the EU before the UK’s exit from the EU on 31 January.

“The bill could force the EU’s hand and result in a no-deal Brexit that ParcelHero calculates will create £11bn of new border tariffs and cost the average UK SME £163,000 in increased costs and duties.”

He warned that, once used, the bill would change the way goods from Northern Ireland enter the UK and overturn state aid rules on subsidies for firms in Northern Ireland, something entirely unacceptable to the EU.

He continued: “Of course, any plan that would reduce the amount of paperwork Northern Ireland businesses have to fill in on goods bound for the mainland, such as export and exit declarations, or even eliminate them entirely, as the bill proposes, is excellent in principle. But the price of a frictionless border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland could be a harder border with the Republic. That might be too high a price, bearing in mind the damage it would do to EU relations.

‘ParcelHero is warning UK businesses and the Government not to take their eyes off the ball and let the impact of Covid overshadow the true cost of a no-deal Brexit. We fully concur with the warning given last month by Thomas Sampson, Associate Professor at the Department of Economics, who said: “When measured in terms of their impact on the present value of UK GDP, the Brexit shock is forecast to be two to three times greater than the impact of COVID-19.”