IRISH CUSTOMS BOSSES RIDICULED BORDER ‘ISSUE’ 2 YEARS AGO

Graham Charles Lear
7 min readFeb 3, 2019

Let's nail the EU LIE once and for all

The following testimonies were given by the senior members of the Irish Revenue and Customs in 2017 and by the Taoiseach’s Brexit adviser, to a Committee of the Irish Parliament. They assumed that the UK would be OUT of the Single Market, and OUT of the Customs Union.

The three people questioned were Nial Cody, Chairman of the Board of the Irish Revenue Commissioners, Liam Irwin, then Revenue Commissioner, and John Callinan, Head of Economic, International, and Northern Ireland Division, Department of the Taoiseach.

They were questioned one week apart, and have combined their testimonies under the various headings relevant to the whole N.I. border question.

IMPORTANT These are the IRISH customs officials, giving testimony to the Irish parliament.

Q: “Will somebody who gets on a train in Dublin still be able to travel to Belfast without checks somewhere along the way?”

Mr Niall Cody: “I certainly expect so.”

Q: “Okay. It is really about the trade and goods rather than the people.”

Mr. Nial Cody: “…The margins are such that there will be cross-Border shopping but it will not put a hole in the Exchequer receipts... However, we have always had to address them while we have been part of the Single Market, because of excise duty differentials on high volume stuff.”

ON THE NATURE OF THE NEW BORDER

Liam Irwin: “Whatever happens, it is clear that a border with the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, would not be what we saw in 1993 just because customs have moved on and become electronic.”

“We are planning for trade facilitation, enabling goods to move. We have absolutely no plans for anything along the Border at this stage. We are examining what the various forms of declaration might be, primarily or almost exclusively electronic, with anything requiring inspection being signaled for inspection somewhere in general proximity to the Border, but if I were to hazard a guess, not on the Border.”

Q: “Revenue has identified several locations where customs posts could be erected in — — — ”

Mr Liam Irwin (Irish Customs): “That is not true.”

Q: “That is not true?”

Mr Liam Irwin (Irish Customs): “That is not true.

Q: “Is Revenue looking at several suitable locations?”

Mr Liam Irwin (Irish Customs): “We are not currently looking at any locations. No planning has reached that stage. We are examining what we might need in terms of infrastructure but not where it might be. We are not looking at sites — —

Q: “What does that mean? The witness said it would be beside the Border but not on the Border. What does that mean?”

Mr. Liam Irwin (Irish Customs): “It would be in some proximity to the Border. It might be 10 km or 15 km back from the Border.

“Would it be a facility? What is the purpose of it?”

Mr Liam Irwin (Irish Customs): “Declarations would be electronic. Electronic facilitation could be done using anything from a big computer system to apps on a mobile device such as a tablet or a phone. Most transactions would be immediately approved and that would be the end of that. There would be free movement for those items thereafter. Perhaps 6% to 8% of items, mainly comprising container traffic — — -”

Q: “Would be diverted to this facility?”

Mr Liam Irwin: “ — — would be diverted. Based on current experience, most of those items would be diverted for a documentary check and a small number sent for physical inspection. There would not be customs stops on the Border such as applied until 1992 as described by the Deputy. That is not the process we envisage. Declarations will be electronic. The stations will be there mainly for trade facilitation to clarify issues. There would be some form of customs intervention but not at those stations. It would probably comprise mobile intervention of some consignments, either randomly or randomly with a risk rating. The trade facilitation station will be very different from the customs stations the Deputy remembers.”

ON EXISTING ARRANGEMENTS

Mr Niall Cody (Irish Customs): “In 2016, 6% of import declarations were checked and less than 2% were physically checked. The vast majority of these checks were carried out in approved warehouses and other premises with a very small number at a port or airport. The low level of import checks is the result of pre-authorisation of traders, advance lodgement of declarations and an extensive system of post-clearance checks, including customs audit, which are carried out at traders’ premises.”

“Authorised economic operators, AEOs, have a special status in the system and under agreed protocols are allowed to operate greatly simplified customs procedures. There are currently 133 AEOs, which account for 82% of all imports and 89% of exports. It will be very important that the bulk of trade continues to be through AEOs after Brexit.”

ON EU PREVENTING IRISH & BRITISH CUSTOMS ORGANISATIONS FROM TALKING

Liam Irwin: “We are not in any form of negotiation or even having any discussion with the UK at this point.”

Q: “Could Mr Cody clarify whether there is a legal impediment to negotiations between us and — — -“

Mr. Niall Cody (Irish Customs): “Yes.”

Q: “ — — -so we can have discussions but not negotiations?”

Mr Niall Cody (Irish Customs): “The European Union will be negotiating with the United Kingdom in regard to Brexit.”

Q: “We cannot do that as a single member state.”

Mr Niall Cody (Irish Customs): “No. Revenue would not be a party to negotiations of that type anyway. We implement the policy and the law. The Department of Finance would lead on fiscal policy. HM Revenue & Customs is like ourselves in this regard.”

ON THE IDEA OF DOING EVERYTHING ELECTRONICALLY

It is now EU policy for customs across the EU to be managed electronically.

Mr Niall Cody (Irish Customs): “The EU policy is to go to an IT-based customs process that is totally paperless. The Vice President of the European Commission gave a speech at the European Parliament last week about evaluating customs performance and management as a tool to facilitate trade and fight illicit trade.”

Mr. Niall Cody (Irish Customs): “Under EU treaties, customs policy is a competence of the Commission. The law governing customs, the Union customs code, was introduced in 2016. The administration of controls is a matter for national administrations provided that the systems in use satisfactorily address any risk to the EU.”

ON CROSS-BORDER TRADE IN AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS AND ANIMALS

Mr Niall Cody (Irish Customs): “Food integrity is clearly a major challenge, and the agrifood sector will need careful handling. It is primarily one of the areas that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will lead on. There is an integrated nature to the supply chain of the agrifood sector, which is probably the biggest sectoral challenge. It is interesting in the context of the task force as this issue is primarily driven by environmental health, so DG SANTE leads in that regard, and we are kind of subcontractors after the event. Nobody underestimates the challenge that Brexit brings but we will be starting from a position of equivalence of standards. As Mr. Keegan argues, when somebody leaves the club, equivalence changes over time. That is an asset challenge but we will be a support to agriculture in that area.”

ON IRISH GOODS TRANSITING THROUGH THE UK

Q: “Let me give an example of a haulier who has a truck going to France via the Border. Mr Cody has outlined the role of Revenue at the Border. What will happen when this truck crosses into Northern Ireland, travels to England and crosses to France? Could Mr Cody say how many checks a truck would have to undergo on that journey?”

Mr Niall Cody: “It would depend on whether the United Kingdom is part of the common transit arrangement. If it were part of the common transit area, there is a facility whereby a truck leaving Dublin can go under the transit arrangement to its final destination in France.”

Q: “Would it have been checked once?”

Mr Niall Cody: “It would probably not have been checked at all.”

Q: “Is that a possibility?”

Mr Niall Cody: “Yes. However, if the United Kingdom transit arrangements do not work, for whatever reason — — -”

Q: “Is it not in the interests of the United Kingdom to have a transit arrangement in view of the fact that some of the trucks from the North come to Dublin or trucks coming into Wexford travel to the North?”

Mr Niall Cody: “It is absolutely in the interests of the United Kingdom to have transit arrangements. We imagine the UK will have such arrangements, but one cannot guess.”

Above I have only provided key excerpts from lengthy testimonies. Naturally, these are senior civil servants and they must be careful that they do not say anything which unduly embarrasses their political masters.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the Northern Irish border with the Republic is nothing at all like its depiction by the EU, by the Irish government, and by Remainer MPs and peers in the UK.

From the testimony of the senior Irish customs personnel, and from the evidence of the senior British customs personnel, I believe that if we're to put them in a room together they would probably come out inside two days with everything solved.

Just who are you trying to kid Mr EU, Mr & Mrs Remainer MPS, Mr & Mrs Remainer Joe Public? There it is in black and white

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Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.