Brexit ‘not a bad dream’ State is going to wake from, Tánaiste says

Government determined to ‘maintain strong, special relationship’ with UK

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said “the UK is leaving the European Union and today we still don’t know how or under what conditions”. Photograph: Salvatore Di Nolfi/EPA

The Government has no choice but to ramp up preparations for a no-deal Brexit as the March 29th deadline approaches, the Tánaiste has told the Dáil.

Simon Coveney said “the UK is leaving the European Union and today we still don’t know how or under what conditions”.

Introducing the Government’s emergency legislation which aims to protect the State and its citizens from the shock of a hard Brexit, Mr Coveney said: “However much we wish, we’re not going to wake up to find the last 2½ years have been a bad dream.”

He warned that managing a no-deal Brexit is an exercise in damage limitation but he promised that a time would come when the word ‘Brexit’ “will no longer dominate the lens through which the British/Irish relationship is viewed”.


And he stressed the Government’s determination to “ensure that Britain and Ireland build new structures to build and maintain our strong and special relationship”.

The omnibus 70-page piece of legislation is called the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Bill.

It contains 15 sections relating to the remit of nine Ministers and covers everything from healthcare to child-benefit payments for Irish citizens in the UK (and British citizens in Ireland), from education grants to insolvent companies, and from electricity to cross-Border bus routes.

While the Tánaiste has said he hoped the legislation would end up sitting on a shelf, he told the Dáil that if the withdrawal agreement was ratified “this Bill will make provision in domestic law for a transition period during which EU rules and regulations will continue to apply to the UK, even though it will be formally a third country”.

‘Wholly inadequate’

Fianna Fáil Brexit spokeswoman Lisa Chambers said her party would facilitate the Bill but it was “wholly inadequate” that the Government gave the Opposition only four days to scrutinise it.

Ms Chambers questioned the Government’s claim that it had not done any contingency planning for a hard border. It was not credible “to suggest that no conversations have taken place whatsoever around what might happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit”.

She asked what were the Government’s plans to deal with the necessary checks with a hard Brexit because it would be of extreme concern if there were checks on Irish goods going through France or elsewhere “because we might be seen a as back door to a third country and won’t permit checks here”.

Sinn Féin public expenditure spokesman David Cullinane asked why the Government and Fianna Fáil were afraid of Irish unity, “afraid of having a debate on Irish unity and afraid even to plan for Irish unity without taking any practical steps”. Mr Cullinane called on the Government to convene a forum to plan for unity.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin warned against assuming “sensible” agreements could be made with the UK once it left the EU. A no-deal exit “quickly will lead to a sour political atmosphere there, even sourer than the one that currently prevails” and Ireland would be blamed, especially by Brexiteers.

Solidarity TD Mick Barry described the Bill as a “kind of bailout model which would see the State providing aid to the private sector”. Enterprise Ireland will be able to give companies loans of up to €7.5 million without asking the Government.

But would the companies guarantee they would not cut jobs or wages, comply with environmental standards and recognise trade unions, he said.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times