Ireland’s borderlands were once a smuggler’s paradise. If the U.K. leaves the EU in a no-deal Brexit, experts say, they likely will be again.
The British government’s no-deal contingency plan released early Wednesday morning would create enticing opportunities for smugglers, by slapping steep tariffs on agricultural products like beef and cheddar cheese while not applying checks at the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
“I assume this is more of a theoretical plan than a practical one,” said David Henig, director of the European Centre For International Political Economy, a think tank. “I cannot see this being in anyway sustainable beyond a short period. There are reasons we check things at borders.”
The move was intended to provide businesses and consumers with clarity and prevent a return to the period prior to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, when the British army patrolled the borderlands between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, blockaded country roads and struggled to stop smugglers.
The U.K. said the plan would be temporary in nature, but offered little clarity about how it would be able to carry out checks on goods coming over to Britain from Ireland.
“We can see Northern Ireland really being the back door into the main Great Britain market” — Ivor Ferguson, president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union
The goods affected range from farm products to motor vehicles.
“You’re essentially saying ‘we’re not going to check anything on the border between Ireland and the rest of the U.K.,’” said Henig.
Someone could buy a car in Ireland,