Government accused of failing to warn public over Brexit risks

Tánaiste accused of giving ‘Andrex puppy’ response to questions on Brexit

Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary:   accused the Government of delaying  publishing plans to prepare for Brexit. File Photograph:  Tom Honan.

Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary: accused the Government of delaying publishing plans to prepare for Brexit. File Photograph: Tom Honan.

 

The Government has come under renewed pressure in the Dáil about publishing its plans and has been accused of failing to prepare the public to deal with the possibility of a hard Brexit.

There were sharp exchanges as Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary described Tánaiste Simon Coveney’s response to questions about preparedness for Brexit as “pathetic”.

He said it was “an Andrex puppy” response. “It’s soft and fluffy but nothing to do with what you’re actually supposed to be doing here,” Mr Calleary said.

In reply, Mr Coveney rejected Mr Calleary’s description and told him his comment “clearly shows you don’t know what you’re talking about”.

The Government will next week publish a document on Brexit contingency planning.

Mr Calleary accused the Government of continuing to delay and prevaricate on publishing plans to prepare for the growing possibility of a hard Brexit.

He said despite the support of the EU on Ireland’s position “we still risk being the meat in the Brexit sandwich”, with collateral damage to the economy.

But he said that even amid the chaos in Britain, the UK authorities have published 100 plans for different sectors while the European Commission has 70.

“The Irish Government has nothing, not one, zero.”

Mr Calleary asked ithe Government realised that by delaying publication, it was undermining efforts to prepare the public for the dangers of Brexit.

But the Tánaiste replied that “there has been and continues to be a huge amount of work in preparation for all contingencies”.

‘Pathetic’

He pointed to sectoral seminars conducted by the European Commission with all 27 members about a variety of sectors including financial services, air transport, road, rail, maritime issues, the pharmaceutical and chemical industry.

One seminar dealt with “Irish specific issues”

Mr Coveney said “let me assure the public that this is part of a process of preparation”, that the Government was working with the Commission and preparing.

Mr Calleary however described the response as “pathetic” and said that sectoral seminars at the end of the day “will not bring it home to people the impact on their lives”.

Referring to the sectoral seminar on air transports, he asked how that would bring home to people the difficulty of travelling through British airspace in the event of a hard Brexit.

Mr Coveney told the Mayo TD that his response showed he did not know what he was talking about. The Government had briefed the Opposition on the preparations including on ports and airports and on each sector.

He said there had been a Brexit ready roadshow running across the State and he had been to each one. He “didn’t see too many Fianna Fáil faces” at those, he said, to cheers and jeers.

Later a spokesman for the Tánaiste said “the hyperbole from Fianna Fáil today was without foundation. The European Commission and Ireland have plans to keep airlines flying in all scenarios, this was the point the Tánaiste was making about the collective strength of the EU.

“The Commission published this no deal paper on aviation a month ago, the largest opposition party in Ireland should really have known that before launching a broadside.”