Government ramps up preparations for no-deal Brexit

Varadkar says Ireland will not make plans public until appropriate to do so

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney 	with students at Loreto Letterkenny: “All Government departments must give full priority to activating their plans for a no-deal or disorderly Brexit.”  Photograph: Julien Behal

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney with students at Loreto Letterkenny: “All Government departments must give full priority to activating their plans for a no-deal or disorderly Brexit.” Photograph: Julien Behal

 

The Government is to intensify its preparations for a no-deal Brexit in response to events in London, but much of the planning will not be made public at this stage, leading Government figures said yesterday.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney briefed the Cabinet on preparations on Tuesday and Ministers resolved that planning for a no-deal outcome would now become the chief priority in all Government departments.

“In terms of moving to implementation of no-deal planning, it will become ‘Topic A’ across the whole of government and will be the priority of every Minister and secretary general,” Mr Coveney writes in today’s Irish Times.

“All Government departments must give full priority to activating their plans for a no-deal or disorderly Brexit.”

The Government spokesman last night said that that the Government had been planning for two-scenarios – a two-four year transition period and a no-deal outcome. “The no-deal scenario . . . will now take priority,” he said in a statement.

‘No-deal deal’

The spokesman declined to be drawn on the details of Government preparations or on the Taoiseach’s recent suggestion in the Dáil that a temporary “no-deal deal” could be negotiated if the UK was to leave the EU next March without agreement.

He said the Government had not and would not make any preparations for a hard border in the event of a no-deal, but would not say how the Government hoped to avoid a hard border in the event of a British departure without agreement at the end of next March.

In the Dáil, the Taoiseach said the British government could avoid such an outcome by revoking article 50.

Lack of preparation

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin questioned the Taoiseach on the Government’s preparations and called on him to publish all plans for a no-deal Brexit. He pointed to the lack of preparation by businesses in Ireland in the event of the UK crashing out of the EU and said that people should have been informed earlier about the possibility of a no deal.

Mr Varadkar said the Government would reveal plans when it was appropriate. He rejected calls from Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald to include pushing for a referendum on a united Ireland as part of its Brexit preparations.

Ms McDonald said given that UK prime minister Theresa May had opted to delay a Westminster vote on the agreement, the only contingency plan the Government should be working on was to prepare for constitutional transition for the North.

Mr Varadkar called her stance “destructive and disruptive” and suggested that Sinn Féin wanted to benefit from the political unrest in the North that a no-deal outcome would entail.