Businesses in Northern Ireland would face massive difficulties in the event of a no-deal Brexit, according to an expert report carried out for the Northern Ireland civil service, with the burden falling most heavily on small and medium enterprises.
The findings of the report by two lawyers specialising in EU and international customs law present a “sobering reflection of the limited room for manoeuvre for businesses and government in a no-deal context”, according to an accompanying note from the North’s Department for the Economy.
“It confirms the Northern Ireland Civil Service’s concern about the impact of EU tariffs on food exports to Ireland, and the ability of micro and small enterprises with no experience in customs procedures and operations to continue to export to Ireland,” the department’s summary of the report says.
The report, written by Eric Pickett and Michael Lux, warns that schemes to avoid trade barriers and Border checks – so-called “facilitation” – would have a limited application, especially for smaller businesses who may not have the ability, scope or expertise to use schemes to minimise trade barriers.
Agriculture worst affected
Trade between the Republic and the North would be hugely affected, the report warns, with agricultural trade worst affected. It lays out in great detail an array of checks, inspections and declarations which could be required.
Trade across the Border is especially important to very small businesses in the North. “Over 80 per cent of microenterprises (employing fewer than 10 people) in Northern Ireland who export, only export to the Republic of Ireland,” the accompanying note says.