If we leave without a deal, what happens to the Irish border?

Published: 7th Dec 2018

We’ve had help answering this question from our friends at the Institute for Government.

That’s very unclear. Theresa May has said “We are obviously committed to no hard border, and we have made it clear that in any circumstances, including in a no-deal situation, we would be doing all that we could to ensure that there was no ​hard border.”

A ‘hard border’ is the term used to describe physical infrastructure for checks on people and goods on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. At the moment, there are no checks or infrastructure on the border.

The Irish Prime Minister has also said that a hard border is something that the Irish government is “not contemplating” and has made “no preparations for”. He added that if the scenario arose then the Irish government would have to have “a difficult conversation” with the rest of the EU and that together with it and the UK an agreement to avoid a hard  border would have to be reached.

If there is no withdrawal agreement or backstop in place Ireland will need to observe the EU’s rules on both customs and on protecting the single market which normally require checks at a border with a third country (which is what the UK will be).   

For the UK, no deal would mean trading under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. You can read more about how WTO rules work here.

This article is part of our Ask Full Fact series on Brexit, answering your questions about Brexit and the latest negotiations between the UK and the EU.

You can see all the questions we’ve answered so far here. If you want to ask us your own question, do that here.


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