Government says vote increases chance of ‘disorderly’ Brexit

Dublin calls on the UK to outline its next steps after House of Commons rejects deal

The Government said last night that it regretted the decision of the House of Commons to reject the EU-UK withdrawal agreement overwhelmingly, and in a strongly worded statement it urged the UK “to set out how it proposes to move forward”.

“We will then consider what next steps to take in consultation with our EU partners,” the Government said in a statement released after the vote by MPs. The statement also stressed that the withdrawal agreement “is not open for renegotiation”.

Privately, senior Government sources said the vote in Westminster increased the likelihood of an extension of article 50 to delay the UK’s exit from the EU, which is scheduled for the end of March. However, they also acknowledged the increased uncertainty carried by the blow to British prime minister Theresa May’s authority and credibility in the vote.

"Regrettably, the outcome of tonight's vote increases the risk of a disorderly Brexit. Consequently, the Government will continue to intensify preparations for such an outcome," Government Buildings said.


The Cabinet discussed preparations for a no-deal Brexit at its meeting on Tuesday and Ministers later briefed the media on some aspects of the preparations.

However, there were red faces in Government Buildings when Minister for Transport Shane Ross said there would be Border checks in the event of a no-deal Brexit, only to be quickly overruled by Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

"If Britain leaves without a deal, well, then we obviously have to have difficult discussions with the European Commission and with the UK in terms of how we protect the EU single market," Mr Coveney said after intervening in Mr Ross's answer to a question on the issue. He declined to go into any further detail.

Common Travel Area

Mr Coveney also said that a new agreement between the Irish and British governments about preserving the Common Travel Area would be signed soon and would come into operation in all Brexit scenarios – “deal or no deal”.

Meanwhile, Minister for Health Simon Harris warned that people should not stockpile drugs in advance of Brexit, as this could result in shortages.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil the Government has a "watchlist" of 24 drugs which could be subject to shortages in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Mr Harris said, however, that a final figure had not yet been arrived at, and temporary shortages of some drugs were not unusual at present. Mr Harris said that even if there is a no-deal Brexit there will not be an immediate effect in relation to the supply of medicines.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times