Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the EU Customs Union

Brexit Europe

The EU Customs Union was one of the first and most significant steps toward economic integration on the continent of Europe.

Following the decision of voters in the United Kingdom to leave the EU, the UK government has indicated that it also intends to leave the customs union. This decision poses a number of challenges for the economy of Northern Ireland given the land border with the Republic of Ireland and for the economy of the Republic of Ireland itself given the level of trade with both Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

The role of the Customs Union and subsequently the Single Market in removing barriers to trade among EU member states has been crucial to the establishment of an ‘all-island economy’ on the Island of Ireland. A Comprehensive Free Trade Deal between the UK and the EU could maintain some of these gains, but the nature of the Customs Union means that a significant level of disruption may be unavoidable.

This paper looks at the impacts of the UK leaving the Custom Union for trade on the Island of Ireland and looks at what post-Brexit policy options are available to avoid such disruption.

The Brexit process is likely to culminate in identifying the least worst option which is politically acceptable to all involved.

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