DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland will need more than the two years scheduled for Brexit negotiations to prepare the customs infrastructure required for trade with Britain after it leaves the European Union, the head of its customs agency said on Thursday.
With close trading links to Britain and the only land border with the United Kingdom, Irish businesses fear that their neighbour's departure from the European Union will lead to a costly rise in tariffs, paperwork and transit times.
Britain triggered a two-year countdown to its exit from the European Union in March but it has not yet been agreed whether there will be a transition period between its departure in 2019 and before a free trade pact can be finalised.
In the meantime Ireland is working on contingency plans such as electronic tagging systems and paperless customs declarations, Niall Cody, chairman of Ireland's Office of the Revenue Commissioners, told a parliamentary committee.
It is "almost 100 percent certain" that no customs posts will be required along the border, he said, but time will be needed for infrastructure in other places.
"To have a fully operational system in place in two years' time to facilitate all that is not really achievable and that is why you have a transitional arrangement to allow the planning and that is the likely outcome," he said.
"If this was a practical, pragmatic arrangement, that is the likely arrangement," he said. "But it is ultimately a political process."
It is not currently possible for the Irish customs service to negotiate with their British counterparts while Brexit talks are ongoing, he said.
Reporting by Conor Humphries, editing by Pritha Sarkar