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Hundreds of gardai to patrol border in Ireland if UK crashes out of EU

By Paul Williams

Senior police officers in the Republic are drafting emergency plans to deploy hundreds of uniformed gardai to the border in the event of a no-deal Brexit on March 29.

It is understood that the plans were discussed yesterday at a high-level meeting between Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and senior staff at Garda HQ in Dublin.

Sources have revealed that 600 gardai will be required to man the estimated 300 border crossings along the frontier if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal.

However, it is feared that the plan could have an impact on the number of gardai on the beat across the Republic.

The gardai will work alongside 400 new customs staff who will be in place on Brexit day as part of no deal preparations by the Republic.

Garda HQ is expected to issue a directive next week seeking volunteers across five of the country's six garda regions who will then be seconded to the border on tours of duty of between six and 12 months' duration.

The extra gardai will bolster the number of officers already stationed in the border region, which has seen a steady decline in personnel over the past decade.

It is understood that extra Irish customs officers will also be sent to the border to work alongside the gardai. However, if the requisite number of volunteers are not forthcoming, senior officers will be instructed to mandate individual officers for border duty - something likely to cause friction between management and the representative bodies.

As part of the plan, which some sources are describing as "a worst-case scenario" or "doomsday plan", recruits currently in training in the Garda College in Co Tipperary will also be sent to the border to make up the numbers over the coming months.

It is also understood that Irish military chiefs are drafting plans for the deployment of extra troops to the border region in support of the gardai.

Mr Harris, a former PSNI Deputy Chief Constable, has already pointed out that there is a fear that dissident republicans and criminal gangs already operating with relative impunity in the border area will seek to exploit the post-Brexit arrangements.

Meanwhile, the impact of any type of Brexit on tens of thousands of Irish businesses will be spelled out today by Irish Revenue chairman Niall Cody, who will appear before the Dail's Finance Committee to update TDs and Senators on preparedness.

He will confirm for the first time that 400 customs staff are expected to be in place at the end of March following an accelerated recruitment process as no-deal contingency plans are put in motion. According to his opening statement to the committee, the administrative burden of fulfilling customs obligations looks set to increase by more than 1,000%.

It is estimated that up to 85,000 Irish businesses could be affected, with more than half of those engaging in regular trade with the UK in 2017.

Separately, concerns have been raised that a gap in payments for some Irish pensioners in the UK could emerge if the UK crashes out of the EU.

A memo brought to the Irish cabinet by Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty warns that while Dublin is well fixed to pass emergency legislation to continue payments, the UK may not be.

The Republic and the UK have reciprocal arrangements for a range of social welfare payments, including pensions and child benefit.

Both sides have agreed to maintain the status quo regardless of what happens with Brexit - but this will require legislation in the Dail and House of Commons.

More than 135,000 people living in the Republic receive the British state pension, while more than 20,000 Irish people in the UK get a pension from the Republic.

It is understood London has agreed in principle to continue all payments, although Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has been unable to guarantee that the necessary legislation will be passed by March 29.

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