LONDON — The Tories may be ahead in the polls, but Labour wont go down without a fight.
At a press conference Friday morning, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn handed out a confidential government assessment of the impact of Boris Johnsons Brexit deal.
Most explosively, the 15-page document sets out the negative impact of the deal on Northern Ireland — revealing the possibility that businesses exporting from Great Britain to Northern Ireland would be subject to customs checks.
Other parts of the contents had already been in the public domain but are now laid out in black and white in an official Treasury assessment.
Corbyn painted it as an issue of trust, saying that the prime minister “pretends there wont be a border in the Irish Sea but the truth is not even his own government believes him.”
Johnson faced questions about the document shortly afterward during a short press conference in Kent. He insisted it is “nonsense” to suggest his Brexit deal would lead to customs checks between the U.K. mainland and Northern Ireland.
Heres POLITICOs rundown of the contents of the assessment.
Additional customs declarations
Northern Irish businesses will have to fill in customs declarations when exporting to Great Britain. These declarations are required “in advance of crossing” the sea, the document says. We already knew this — Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay admitted it during a select committee hearing, sparking a massive row.
But the Treasury document also raises the possibility of businesses in Great Britain having to fill in customs declarations when exporting to Northern Ireland. It has a “?” in the relevant section about east-to-west checks.
The prospect of checks when exporting from Great Britain to Northern Ireland is new.
Hit to the Northern Irish economy
According to the Treasury, the requirement for customs declarations will be “highly disruptive” to the Northern Irish economy. It says that 98 percent of exporters to Great Britain are small and medium-sized businesses “who are likely to struggle to bear this cost.”
Thats embarrassing for the government, which has insisted the checks will be “an administrative procedure which is carried out electronically” and does not burden businesses. Johnson has claimed the arrangements are a “great deal” for Northern Ireland, while Barclay has said the checks will be “minimal, targeted interventions.”
The assessment also says that high street goods in Northern Ireland are likely to increase in price as a result of the deal, something which is “likely to affect business profitability.”
According to the Treasury, “Key employment sectors such as retail [are] likely to be hit.”