NI cannot take the Republic out of the EU by default, says Tánaiste

No preparations to be made for structures at Border in event of no-deal Brexit

Tánaiste Simon Coveney: ‘We can’t allow, in a no-deal scenario for example, for Northern Ireland effectively to become a backdoor that’s unguarded into the European Union single market and customs union’. Photograph: Julien Behal

Ireland cannot allow Northern Ireland to be used as a backdoor to take Ireland out of the EU by default, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said.

"We can't allow, in a no-deal scenario for example, for Northern Ireland effectively to become a backdoor that's unguarded into the European Union single market and customs union," he said.

“If that happens then the Republic of Ireland will essentially get taken out of the single market by default. We can never allow that to happen,” he said.

The issue would be addressed “in probably more direct language” following the presentation of the latest Brexit preparation memos to Cabinet today, he said.


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, there was "no preparation in terms of structures "at the Border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

If there is no deal “we’ll have to protect the single market and the customs union. We’ll want to do that as well because our economy and our jobs are based on that. But we’re going to need to do it in a way that doesn’t undermine the Good Friday agreement or obligations there,” he said.

Things anticipated in such a scenario could include “imposing tariffs. We know that they don’t have to be done at a border as such. Most people pay their taxes online now. But checks, obviously, is where it gets much more difficult,” he said.

They were speaking to the media at Dublin Castle yesterday morning where they had launched the one-year progress report on Global Ireland 2025. The Taoiseach said it was “one of those strategies where we are well ahead of schedule – eight new embassies and consulates opened around the world.

“We’ll bring three memos on Brexit to Cabinet and the main memo there really is an updated Brexit preparedness plan.”

While looking forward to an early meeting with the new British prime minister, he said “the absolute red line for us is, and always has been, that we have to have a legally operable, legally binding assurance that whatever else may happen as a consequence of Brexit the re-emergence of a hard border between North and South won’t be one of them.”

Great reluctance

He also believed there would be a “great deal of reluctance” among European leaders to grant the British government another extension beyond October 31st. If such an extension was to be granted, it would be in the context of “a general election in the UK or something like that,” he said.

Asked whether relations between Ireland and Britain were likely to become more fraught over coming months, Mr Coveney responded: “I hope not. I think the relationships that both the Taoiseach and I, and others in Government, have worked hard to build with the previous British cabinet were very strong.”

The Taoiseach noted how both of the two men running for the Conservative Party leadership – Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt – "actually voted for the withdrawal agreement only a few weeks ago". He said "fundamentally the best way that we can restore relations between Ireland and the UK is to come to a resolution on Brexit."

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times