DUBLIN (Reuters) – Less than half of the 84,000 Irish companies that trade with Britain have applied for a customs number to continue doing so after Brexit, prompting the tax authority to warn they could be cut off if London leaves Europe without a deal.
Given close trading links to its nearest neighbour, Irish customs officials are braced for a 12-fold rise in the number of import and export declarations made by local companies if Britain leaves the European Union’s customs union.
With Britain at risk of crashing out of the EU as soon as next week, Ireland’s Office of the Revenue Commissioners and government urged firms to apply for an Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number, which will be needed to continue to move goods to, from or through the UK.
“IMPORTANT: Businesses trading with UK will need an EORI customs number in a no deal #Brexit,” Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said on Twitter on Thursday, one of a number of ministers to push the message on social media.
“Half of those who need it haven’t yet applied. The Government cannot do it for you.”
The government said it would take firms just a few minutes to register online. But the head of the Revenue Commissioners’ Brexit policy unit, Lynda Slattery, said some companies feel a non-negotiated Brexit is not going to happen.
Slattery said the construction and manufacturing sectors did not appear to be engaging with customs officials and warned they will be turned away at ports if Britain leaves by the current deadline of April 12 and they do not have the right papers.
“If they are not engaging and they have made this decision, consciously because of the uncertainty, come the 12th or 13th, can their business survive that decision?” Slattery told Irish national broadcaster RTE.
“They need to understand the consequences now of making that decision. If this happens on the 12th, if their goods can’t move, if they haven’t made any preparations, what does that situation look like for them?”
Britain may, however, ask the EU for a long Brexit delay next week if crisis talks between Prime Minister Theresa May’s government and the opposition Labour Party fail to find a way out of the impasse.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)