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Road blocks, protests and a hard border: UK's Northern Ireland plans 'likely to prove unsustainable'

Businesses in the North are likely to face an immediate adverse effect from a no-deal, according to the Yellowhammer documents.

File photo. Mock customs post at the border in Ravensdale.
File photo. Mock customs post at the border in Ravensdale.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Images

THE UK LABOUR Party has called for parliament to be recalled, after Operation Yellowhammer documents published yesterday warned a no-deal Brexit could lead to the return of a hard border in Ireland.

On 13 March, the government said there would be no new checks or controls on goods moving from Ireland to Northern Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

And, despite the UK government’s wish not to install any border checks in Ireland, the official papers say that “this model is likely to prove unsustainable due to significant economic, legal and biosecurity risks”.

It also says that in Northern Ireland, “the automatic application of the EU tariff and regulatory requirements for goods entering Ireland will severely disrupt trade”. 

The UK government expects that some businesses will stop trade or relocate to avoid paying these tariffs which will make them “uncompetitive”. For those who continue to trade, they would “experience higher costs which may be passed on to customers”. 

It says the agri-food sector would be hardest hit, given its reliance on cross-border supply chains and the tariffs that would then apply. 

“Disruption to key sectors and job losses are likely to result in protests and direct action with road blockages,” the Yellowhammer documents say. 

Yesterday, the PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne called for an extra 800 officers to help deal with the dissident threat. A no-deal scenario would also exacerbate this threat, the documents say. 

Price and other differentials are likely to lead to the growth of the illegitimate economy. This will be particularly severe in border communities where both criminal and dissident groups already operate with greater threat and impunity.

Elsewhere, Operation Yellowhammer also says that there would be a “rise in public disorder and community tensions” across the UK after a no-deal Brexit. 

Preparedness for a no deal remains “at a low level”, it says, with logjams at Channel ports threatening to impact supplies.

It adds: “Low income groups will be disproportionately affected by any price rises in food and fuel.”

‘A reasonable worst case scenario’

The UK government was aiming to play down the implications of the Yellowhammer documents yesterday, which had been previously leaked to the Sunday Times

It stressed that it was “updating the assumptions” in the document, and that it was “neither an impact assessment, nor a prediction of what is most likely to happen. 

“It describes what could occur in a reasonable worst case scenario,” wrote minister Michael Gove.

Boris Johnson’s government will also appeal the Scottish court ruling which ruled that suspending parliament for five weeks was “unlawful”

A spokesman said it was “disappointed” by the decision and would appeal to the Supreme Court.

“The UK government needs to bring forward a strong domestic legislative agenda. Proroguing parliament is the legal and necessary way of delivering this,” he said.

However, the opposition has called for parliament to be immediately recalled given the looming threat of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

“I urge the prime minister to immediately recall parliament so we can debate this judgement and decide what happens next,” said Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer.

However, a government source told AFP that “nothing is changing” until the case was concluded.

Later, Johnson took questions from the public in a live address on Facebook, where he was asked if he was the “leader of an authoritarian regime”.

“I must respectfully disagree with you,” he replied, adding: “What we’re trying to do is to implement the result of the 2016 referendum.”

With reporting from AFP

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Sean Murray

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