The Government is to restart preparations for a no-deal Brexit, Ministers will be told today, as negotiations between the UK and EU on a trade deal show little signs of progress.
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney will brief the Cabinet on the state of the negotiations in Brussels, and tell Ministers that preparations at ports and airports will need to be stepped up as Ireland emerges from the coronavirus lockdown.
Mr Coveney will outline two potential scenarios that could unfold in the second half of the year: either the two sides reach a “basic” free trade agreement that includes zero tariffs and zero quotas on goods, including fish, or they fail to reach agreement, in which case a no-deal Brexit will come into operation at the beginning of 2021.
If there is a no-deal Brexit, Ministers will be told, Irish agrifood exports to the UK could be hit with some €1 billion in tariffs.
The UK must decide by the end of June if it wishes to seek an extension to the present transition phase, during which, although legally outside the EU, the UK applies the laws and receives the benefits of the EU single market.
However, the UK government has said it will not under any circumstances apply for an extension, meaning there are just seven months left to reach a comprehensive free trade agreement. Such a process normally takes several years.
There has been little progress so far in the negotiations, which began in March, and Mr Coveney is likely to offer a gloomy prognosis to Ministers when they meet today.
Of the four negotiating rounds scheduled to take place before the end of June, three have been completed, but they have achieved little agreement on anything of substance. The next round starts next week.
“We’ve had three rounds. They haven’t gone well,” a source briefed on the talks said.
Ministers will also be asked to approve the drafting of new Brexit legislation to prepare for no deal, though it is unlikely to be presented to the Dáil before the autumn.