What Does the Irish Border Dispute Mean for International Business?

One of the most significant consequences of the Brexit negotiations has been major disagreements and ongoing tensions regarding the Irish border. Here, Galvin International explores why businesses have been viewing the situation with caution, and what recent breakthroughs mean for international expansion.

The Irish Border Problem

When the UK officially parts ways with the EU, Northern Ireland will become the only part of the UK to share a land border with an EU member state. Since the 1998 Good Friday agreement removed all security checkpoints, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic has been invisible – a state of affairs that the Irish government is keen to maintain, in order to avoid resurgent tensions [1].

However, Brexit, and in particular the UK’s potential total withdrawal from the customs union, makes the return of a hard border a distinct possibility. Different standards regarding animal welfare, food safety or medical regulation, would greatly increase the necessity and likelihood of physical customs checks.

Is the Issue Now Solved?

The recent joint document that has allowed the UK and EU to move to the next stage of negotiations, also contains an agreement that the UK will maintain ‘full alignment’ with the rules of the customs union in the event that no solution is found to the Irish border issue [2].

Although this represents a breakthrough compared to the previous deadlock, there is still reason for caution. The prime minister has admitted ‘specific solutions’ will still need to be found, while some experts remain sceptical about the existence of a solution that will satisfy all parties. Writing in the Irish Times, Dr Katy Hayward of Queen’s University Belfast, suggests that even the ‘full alignment’ mentioned in the written agreement would be difficult to ensure without a border system similar to the one employed between Norway and Sweden [3].

Senior pro-Brexit voices within the government will also continue to push for a hard-Brexit scenario, which would make the return of a hard border almost inevitable. The Brexit secretary, David Davis, has stated that the written agreement is not legally binding. His comments caused anger among senior EU figures, and could potentially lead to much harsher line taken against the UK in negotiations [4].

How Can Galvin International Help?

Although some progress has been made on the issue of the Irish border, a level of uncertainty remains. It is therefore important that companies with business interests in the region have the right advice and on-ground support to guide them through any future changes.

Galvin International’s expansion concierge service provides the clarity and practical support your business needs during periods of overseas growth. From market analysis to implementation, we untangle the complexities of international expansion, working closely with you to develop custom strategies for global growth.

Get in touch to find out how we can help your company expand overseas.

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-42180074

[2] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-latest-theresa-may-northern-ireland-border-talks-brussels-eu-jean-claude-michel-barnier-a8098396.html

[3] https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/brexit-deal-allows-for-three-different-types-of-irish-border-1.3320497

[4] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-david-davis-european-council-statement-of-intent-summit-european-parliament-a8105126.html

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