Missteps in Brexit will be felt for generations, Simon Coveney says

Tánaiste plays down fears of food and medical shortages on visit to ploughing championships

Tánaiste Simon Coveney  visits the Global Ireland marquee at the National Ploughing Championships on Wednesday. Photograph: Julien Behal

Tánaiste Simon Coveney visits the Global Ireland marquee at the National Ploughing Championships on Wednesday. Photograph: Julien Behal


Those involved in negotiating the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union are effectively “writing history”, and missteps made now will be felt by people in Ireland, Britain and the wider bloc for generations to come, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said.

During a public interview at the National Ploughing Championships in Co Carlow on Wednesday, Mr Coveney also encouraged farmers involved in the beef dispute to keep an eye on the bigger picture and work collectively to safeguard their industry as “in six weeks it is possible that Britain will crash out of the European Union”.

He said that in such circumstances farmers would have to contend with “tariff and non-tariff barriers and a further reduction in the value of sterling, possibly quite dramatically”, which he believed could do “really significant damage” to the State’s farming sector.

Mr Coveney expressed a hope that a Brexit deal could still be reached by October 31st despite the absence of any concrete proposals from the UK on how the controversial Northern Ireland backstop could be worked around.

“Ireland wants a deal but we can’t sign up for something that is damaging from a political, social and trade perspective,” he said.

What happens next

The Tánaiste attempted to play down fears that medicines and some foods might be in short supply in the immediate aftermath of a no-deal Brexit, but added that what happens next “depends on how the UK manages the situation at its ports”.

If the UK authorities were unprepared for the consequences of border checks on goods travelling across the English Channel, he said there “could be eight or 10km tailbacks of trucks trying to get on ships crossing onto continental Europe, and it would be a brave Irish truck driver who skipped that queue”.

When questioned about tensions between Ireland and the UK, Mr Coveney said it was “not a comfortable space for us” and that the negotiating parties were “writing history here”.

“This is going to determine the relationship between Ireland and Britain and Ireland north and south and between the EU and the UK for a lifetime, possibly,” he said.

‘Brushed aside’

Mr Coveney added that in such a scenario Ireland “cannot be brushed aside” and that “the solidarity we have across the European Union is absolute”.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, who announced a Rural Safety Forum at the National Ploughing Championships on Wednesday, described Brexit as “a challenge in terms of security as in other areas”.

Minister for Enterprise Heather Humphreys, who also visited the championships, said the Government would continue to work towards finding an accommodation on the UK leaving the EU that all sides could live with.

“You prepare for the worst but we will negotiate for the best possible outcome,” she said, adding that there was “nothing good in Brexit, we all know that”.