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Snippet Contents:

While a specific reference to Ireland in the conclusions of the 20 October European Council meeting is welcome, it is with growing alarm that we note a complete absence of detail regarding what the new EU external frontier will look like post Brexit. I do not know how many more times we will have to stand in the Chamber and welcome vague assertions that a hard border will be avoided. Detail and a plan are needed. Unfortunately, these seem to have been absent thus far, especially from the UK.
In her post-European Council speech in Westminster, Prime Minister May stated that significant progress had been made on Northern Ireland. She again committed to having no physical infrastructure on the Border. There is nothing new in this assertion, yet we still have no detail of how it is to work. Visualising how it could work is extremely difficult.
It has been more than six months since Article 50 was triggered and the withdrawal process began, yet the EU is still requesting that the UK "present and commit to flexible and imaginative solutions called for by the unique situation of Ireland". That this assertion on such a basic and fundamental aspect of the Brexit process still needs to be made six months after the UK began the withdrawal process is alarming.
The unpublished internal Revenue Commissioners report that came to the media earlier this month paints a stark picture. I recognise the fact that the report dates from September of last year, but we must heed the warnings contained therein, given that not much has changed since then. Despite what is being said publicly, there is a view in Revenue that the idea of a frictionless border for trade is unworkable and naive. These are Revenue's words, not mine.
Along with additional infrastructure such as storage facilities for goods at Border crossings, greatly expanded ICT capabilities and increased staffing at ports and airports, it is estimated that an external frontier would mean an 800% increase in the volume of customs declarations by companies trading with the UK. This would mean a significantly increased volume and complexity of paperwork for firms, many delays, additional costs and an inevitable knock-on effect on the wider economy, North and South. In 2015, goods worth almost €18 billion were imported from the UK and goods worth €15.5 billion were exported by Ireland to the UK. Revenue has stated that the administrative and fiscal burden on the companies involved cannot be underestimated. Any restriction on this flow of trade would have severe negative consequences for the entire island of Ireland. The impact of this could be catastrophic on particular elements of Ireland's trade. We are not being realistic about the potential damage that can be done.
While we all hope for the best, we need to do much more. We must prepare for the worst. This means having clear contingency plans in place. While I agree with the Taoiseach that it is not up to Ireland to design solutions for the UK, we must be prudent, which means being prepared for all eventualities. We do not share the belief of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, that preparing for the prospect of a hard border is a self-fulfilling prophecy. His suggestion is short-sighted and dangerous. It is critical that we have good contingency plans in place in the event of the UK exiting without a deal. This does not mean putting in place the investments that are referenced in the Revenue report, but it does mean having in place contingency plans for such facilities.