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We don't know if there will be a Brexit, but the government is getting ready

Revenue is investigating what would be the reality on the ground — in terms of border control checkpoints, customs officers and costings.

Image: Shutterstock/northallertonman

THE GOVERNMENT IS investigating how many customs officers and border control units with Northern Ireland would be necessary if Britain leaves the European Union.

TheJournal.ie has learned that Revenue has been working on a contingency plan if Brexit becomes a reality. 

The authority is investigating what would be the reality on the ground — in terms of border control checkpoints, customs officers and costings.

There has been much discussion about the impact the upcoming UK-EU referendum will have on Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said the common travel area between the UK and Ireland would be unaffected if UK voters opt to pull out of the EU.

However, earlier this week, Taoiseach Enda Kenny indicated border controls could return.

It’s understood the government is planning for both outcomes after the 23 June vote.

Border controls 

It’s believed the typical border control huts that dotted the Northern Ireland landscape in the past, which typically had long queues of vehicles waiting to enter the region, will not appear overnight.

Revenue is looking at Norway/Sweden as an example of how it operates its border.

They have invested in new technology to curb the backlog of queues, though random checks do still occur.

An achievement of the Good Friday Agreement is the absence of a border between the north and south of Ireland and the possibility of creating border restrictions is understood to be a major concern to government.

The move by Revenue to plan ahead is part of a government contingency plan, which involves cross-departmental senior official groups meeting on a regular basis.

The government will have a clear plan in place to deal with the aftermath of a UK vote to leave, with a framework, which is believed to be at an advanced stage, being developed to identify contingencies that may arise in the days, months and months after the vote.

Two-year timelines

However, the two-year timeline given to the UK and Europe to sort out its affairs following an exit vote will give the Irish government adequate time to develop the plans further.

The government has been proactive and gearing up its efforts as the referendum gets closer, with ministers travelling to the UK to make the government’s position known to Irish communities.

Ministers have been visiting Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast in recent weeks.

With the 828,000 people identifying themselves as “Irish only” on the 2011 UK census (1.3% of UK population), one might question what impact Irish voters might have on the vote.

However, recent polls show the race is close, and if it is tight, the Irish vote could be significant.

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