No-deal Brexit unlikely but we need to be prepared – Varadkar

Specific updates on medicines and transport issues will be issued to Ministers

 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar insists that ports and airports will be ‘Brexit ready’.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar insists that ports and airports will be ‘Brexit ready’.

 

A no-deal Brexit is unlikely but we need to be prepared for it, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

Speaking to journalists at a Fine Gael party meeting in Dublin on Monday, on the eve of the return of the Dáil from its Christmas break, Mr Varadkar said a certain number of medicines had been identified that may be in short supply.

“So we’re going to make sure we can continue to supply those medicines,” Mr Varadkar said.

The Cabinet is due to receive four memorandums on Brexit-related issues for discussion at Tuesday’s meeting in Government Buildings.

Specific updates on medicines and transport issues will be issued to Ministers, while the Cabinet will also be briefed on bilateral discussions with the British government on the Common Travel Area between the two countries and on the preparation of Brexit legislation to be enacted before the end of March.

Speaking earlier in the day, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney had said that Ireland must “hold its nerve” on Brexit.

But the Taoiseach declined to say if this meant the Government expected to be subjected to pressure from either Brussels or London to soften its hard line on the backstop.

He said that “out of respect for their democracy” he wanted to allow the UK’s parliament to make its decision on Tuesday on the UK-EU withdrawal agreement.

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“I don’t think it’s in Ireland’s interests for me to be interfering in their internal politics,” he said.

The Taoiseach declined to be drawn on the implications of a heavy defeat for Mrs May in Tuesday’s vote.

“There’ll be a number of votes,” he said. “After that we’ll assess the situation.”

However, Mr Varadkar insisted that ports and airports would be “Brexit ready”.

“But I shouldn’t pretend to anyone that there’s going to be any country that can be fully prepared for Brexit,” he said.

“There is no good Brexit and a no-deal Brexit will have a very severe impact on Ireland and on Britain and on Europe. But we’ll be as prepared as we possibly can be and certainly as prepared as any other country.”

Irish interests

Separately, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said whatever the outcome of the House of Commons vote on the withdrawal agreement on Tuesday, Irish interests must be protected North and South.

She claimed “many in the British political establishment have played a game of chicken with Ireland, and with Irish interests”, and said it was “a disreputable way to carry out your politics”.

Accompanied by Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and party vice-president Michelle O’Neill as she spoke to the media at Stormont, Ms McDonald said the position of the Democratic Unionist Party opposing the backstop was “reckless and irresponsible”.

“It certainly is not in the interests of the people of the North of Ireland,” she said.

Speaking yesterday, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said that instead of reassuring his party about the backstop, a letter from the EU to British prime minister Theresa May had bolstered their concerns.

He said that without any changes to the legally binding withdrawal agreement, nothing of substance had changed.

“Northern Ireland would be subject to EU laws with no representation in Brussels. We would rely on the Dublin Government to speak up for us. Instead of meaningless letters, the prime minister should now ask for and deliver changes to the withdrawal agreement,” he said.