Cabinet to be told about ‘dire’ realities of no-deal Brexit
Coveney to present contingency, ports and communication plan memos to Ministers
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney: Mr Coveney is set to tell Ministers a no-deal Brexit is more likely now than at any time to date. Photograph: Michelle Devane/PA
Ministers will face “dire” warnings on Tuesday about the realities of a no-deal Brexit when they are expected to discuss the implications for the Border if the UK crashes out of the EU in October.
The Cabinet will hear about the “dire consequences for Northern Ireland and the all-Ireland economy” according to sources familiar with the memorandums to be presented to Ministers.
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney is due to bring three Brexit memos to Cabinet, including a revised contingency action plan which will be published later on Tuesday.
The Government is increasingly concerned about how it can reconcile the twin obligations to maintain an open border on the island while at the same time protecting the single market and customs union if the UK leaves without an agreement.
Mr Coveney warned: “We can’t allow . . . Northern Ireland effectively to become a back door – if it’s unguarded – into the EU single market and customs union. Because if that happens then the Republic of Ireland will essentially get taken out of the single market by default and we can never allow that to happen.”
The Taoiseach said tariffs and customs in the event of a no-deal Brexit would not need Border checks but that checks on food products and animals were a difficulty. “We’ve made no preparations for infrastructure,” he said.
Tourism and medicine
The contingency plan, about 100-pages long, is an update of the plan published last December before the previous Brexit deadline of March 29th.
It will cover preparations in about 20 areas, including aviation, road haulage, retail, tourism and medicines. There will also be a memo describing preparations at ports and airports.
According to sources familiar with its content, the memo will approve the permanent structures at airports and ports, including Dublin and Rosslare Europort.
The third memo will outline communications plans required to inform businesses and the public about the implications of a no-deal Brexit – an outcome Mr Coveney will tell Ministers is more likely now than at any time in the past.
Officials are concerned that while there was a take-up of Brexit preparations and requirements in advance of the March deadline – which passed when the UK was granted an extension – there has been a fall-off in Brexit preparations by businesses since then.
One source said the Government needed to make “an absolute wake-up call” to business, especially small and medium-sized businesses.
A campaign to prompt holders of UK driving licences to apply for Irish licences is already under way.
Meanwhile, the chair of Westminster’s Northern Ireland Affairs committee has warned unionists that a hard border after Brexit could lead to a united Ireland and the break-up of the United Kingdom.
Conservative MP Simon Hoare said it was a huge risk to presuppose that “the cards will all fall in our favour” over Brexit in relation to the Border.
“We will play with fire if a policy is pursued which adds an accelerant to a demand for a Border poll. Because I have to say, and it saddens me to say it, I am not convinced that we as unionists would win that poll,” he said
“I am also certain that even if we were to prevail and that precious union was to maintain it would open yet again – and one could not refuse the request for a second independence referendum in Scotland, and it is worrying – and I say this as somebody who is saddened to say it, I do not want to wake up and find myself a subject of the United Kingdom of England and Wales.”