Martin berates Government for failing to spell out no-deal implications
FF leader questioned Government’s preparedness for worst possible Brexit outcome
Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin: ‘In March we came within days of a crash-out Brexit for which Ireland manifestly was not prepared – something the Taoiseach admitted during Dáil questions.’ File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has strongly criticised the Government for not spelling out much earlier the damaging consequences of a no-deal Brexit.
Mr Martin berated Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney for refusing to give details until the final weeks of the process of where border checkpoints might be, what tariffs would apply, and what the implications would be. He said there was no reason to hide this information.
He was speaking to reporters in the John F Kennedy Arboretum in Wexford, where he was giving a keynote address as part of the Kennedy Summer School.
In his speech to the Kennedy School, Mr Martin again questioned the Government’s preparedness for the worst possible outcome on Brexit.
“In March we came within days of a crash-out Brexit for which Ireland manifestly was not prepared – something the Taoiseach admitted during Dáil questions. Even today less than 10 per cent of Brexit planning funds have been allocated and core customs training is only beginning.?“We dodged a bullet earlier this year and simply cannot afford the same failings in a much more serious situation. I think it is long past time for the government to publish everything it has about no deal preparations. Let’s see the full details. Without the spin and with the full costs and administrative arrangements outlined.”
Livelihoods at stake
Speaking to media earlier he said. “It should have been done earlier,” he said. “What should have been been spelt out is what would have happened if Britain becomes a third country as a result of a no-deal Brexit and the absence of a proper trading agreement with the EU.
“When Shane Ross said it to Simon Coveney [Mr Ross detailed the difficulties for transport post Brexit at a press conference in January 2019] he was the villain of the piece but he was saying the truth.
“The European Commissioner said last January there would be a hard border in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
“The Revenue Commissioners . . . were told to stop preparing for eventualities.
“That was a mistake. I think if Revenue should have been allowed do its work,” he said.
Mr Martin said: “I think the Government haven’t been up front on this from the beginning . . . I think if you’re honest with the people and give people the hard facts, people will go with you on the issues.”
He added: “What’s going on really is that people seem to behind the scenes know what’s going to happen, but they’ve been trying to create a political narrative around how to say it.
“If I’m honest, that’s what seems to be happening, rather than just saying, because Britain becomes a third country if they leave with no-deal.
“We’re then the European border with that third country… therefore that will require checks somewhere near the border,” he said.
Mr Martin said he put the suppressed Revenue report to British prime minister Boris Johnson when, as foreign secretary, he visited Dublin last year and pointed out it predicted an outcome that could be horrendous for small business.
He said he did not believe a general election should be held in Ireland this year. “I don’t believe there needs to be a general election this year because of instability and uncertainty that Brexit has created and also because of need for Government to focus and deal on Brexit.
“Livelihoods are at stake because of Brexit and I think that Government has to put that first,” he said.
Asked when an election should be held, he replied: “I want to see clear light at the end of the Brexit tunnel. I want to see resolution of the Brexit issue.”
He said his view was that divergence would not occur immediately and said he was encouraged by Mr Johnson’s reference to an all-Ireland agricultural arrangement which was a “step in the right direction”.
He said he did not know the British prime minister well enough to say if he trusted him or not.
“He is the prime minister and he may be the next prime minister.
“We have to work with him notwithstanding people having reservations about his style and past decisions.”
Asked did he have reservations, he replied: “I am into creating strong relationships with Britain because that was the underpinning of the Good Friday Agreement and also fo the resolution of our historic dispute.”
He said that at the meeting with Mr Johnson on Monday Mr Varadkar should take the “long view” and stress the importance of that British-Irish government relationship irrespective of Brexit.
He also said that both leaders should tell the parties in Northern Ireland to get together and reestablish the Assembly to allow people have a say on Brexit.
“Brexit is the overarching issue that trumps every other issue and even if they got back to discuss Brexit that would be a positive thing,” he said.