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Barnier spells out harsh realities of no-deal Brexit in Dublin

Inside Politics: EU’s chief negotiator sought reassurances Ireland would protect the single market

‘Dangerous’ is not a word usually associated with negotiations between political players unless violence is looming over the horizon.

But the use of the word by the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, in private discussions with the Government yesterday underlines the critical phase the Brexit negotiations have now entered.

Harsh reality crept into the private discussions. As reported in the lead story this morning Barnier told Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and officials it would be "dangerous" if the British requested an extension to Brexit until June 30th if Theresa May had no clear plan.

Tomorrow’s emergency summit of EU leaders in Brussels is a ‘make-or-break moment’. For once there could be concrete outcomes. If another French politician, Emmanuel Macron, has a de Gaulle moment and takes a hard line by refusing Britain a further extension, that could be that. Britain could be out.


Few believe Macron will carry out the threat. Still, French officials, in private, have been saying British prime minister Theresa May needs to bring a concrete Brexit plan that is ratified by parliament when she arrives for the summit tomorrow. Otherwise, a no-deal Brexit should be considered.

As May begins a day of last-minute shuttle diplomacy (she will visit Berlin and Paris today), Conservative and Labour negotiators have yet to agree a compromise on Brexit that both agree with.

No matter what is arrived at, it will be divisive. Already, Conservative MPs are railing at the notion that Britain might need to hold EU parliament elections on May 23rd.

Back to Dublin and yesterday’s private talks. Publicly Barnier rattled out the standard line that the EU would “stand fully behind Ireland”. But he also spelled out the realities of a no-deal exit including seeking reassurances that Ireland would protect the single market. That includes a phrase the Government doesn’t dare whisper - namely some form of “border solution”.

FAI snatches nil-all draw in extra time

Four hours after the deadline set by the all-party Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Football Association of Ireland finally delivered its set-play strategy for tomorrow’s meeting of the committee.

Just after 4pm yesterday, committee chair Fergus O’Dowd received the list of witnesses from the FAI. It included the name of John Delaney, until last month the chief executive of the association and now in the newly created role of executive vice president.

There was also a 21-page statement from Dónal Conway, the FAI’s president. It included a number of concessions. The first was that the unusual bridging loan of €100,000 from Mr Delaney to the FAI in April 2017 was not notified to Sport Ireland as it should have been. That meant the association was not in compliance with all the terms and conditions for drawing down State funds.

The second key concession contained in the statement related to public comments by the FAI in March after the story first broke in the Sunday Times. The FAI now says the comments were not accurate in terms of describing the board’s knowledge of the loans. At the time, it said board members were fully aware. Now, it seems that might not have been the case.

In any instance, it sets up what should be an intriguing meeting tomorrow, with committee members challenging the FAI, and Mr Delaney, on the loan, the reasons behind it and why it was not reported.

Late in the report, there is a reference to the see-saw nature of sports finances and cash-flow crises, especially when a national team fails to qualify for a blue riband event like the Euro championships. We suspect this might form the basis for the defence of why the loan was paid and accepted. Here is our report.

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There will be other issues besides Brexit, but none of them will grab the imagination of anybody.

Dáil Éireann

14.00: Leaders’ Questions with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. His meeting with Barnier is sure to feature.

15.02: Taoiseach’s Questions.

15.47: Pre-European Council Statements. Another afternoon dominated by Brexit.

17.12: Parliamentary Questions: Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy will take priority questions.

18.42: Topical Issues.

19.30: Motions re Article 4 of the 19th and 21st Protocols Annexed to the Lisbon Treaty.

Private Members’ Business: Sinn Féin has tabled a Bill to include neutrality in the Irish Constitution (it has been a long-standing policy of the State but has no Constitutional backing).


14.30: Commencement Matters.

15.30: Order of Business.

16.45: Wildlife Amendment Bill 2016. This continues to be a slow burner (almost literally). Extending the length of the burning season has been one of the controversies.

Another Bill to change the Constitution will be debated, this one backed by the Government. It is the proposal to shorten the period of separation for divorce from a minimum of four years to two years.


12.45: Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport will hold a private meeting ahead of the appearance of Football Association of Ireland officials tomorrow.

14.00: Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach will question Permanent TSB CEO Jeremy Masding on issues in the banking sector.

15.30: Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine will discuss the “Future of the Beef Sector in the context of Food Wise 2025”. This is likely to be an intriguing meeting as there will be farmers’ representatives first and then representatives from An Taisce.

15.30: Committee on Education and Skills will engage with Dónal Ó hAiniféin, designate cathaoirleach of An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta. It will also explore the status of non-teaching staff in schools.

16.00: Beidh an Coiste Um Ghaeilge, na Gaeltachta and na nOileán ag scagadh an obair atá deanta ag an Roinn Oideachais chun seirbhísí dátheangacha a chur ar fáil.