Varadkar rules out food, medicine shortages under no-deal Brexit

Taoiseach says economy will slow down but there will be no recession

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has moved to reassure the public about the implications of a no-deal Brexit, saying it would not lead to a recession nor to the return of austerity.

Mr Varadkar said the economy would slow down but not as dramatically as had been portrayed this week.

Speaking in Lismore Co Waterford of Friday, where he opened a new heritage centre, Mr Varadkar did acknowledge there would be tariffs from November 1st, as well as checks near the Border, if a disorderly UK withdrawal materialised.

“Our projections are the economy will slow down but we won’t go into recession. While there will be an increase in unemployment and jobs will be lost, more jobs that that will be created, so there will be net growth in employment.


“We do not anticipate a return to austerity. We do not anticipate pay cuts or welfare cuts or income tax increases, or any of those things that people experienced ten years ago.

“That’s not to say it won’t impact our economy adversely.”

He also said he did not foresee medicine shortages or food shortages.

His effort to reassure the public comes after it was reported that Cabinet was told on Tuesday that a no-deal Brexit could lead to the loss of up to 10,000 jobs in the tourism and hospitality industry.

Turning to his first formal bilateral meeting with British prime minster Boris Johnson next Monday he said he wanted to have the opportunity to establish a personal relationship, and to talk about the EU and the withdrawal agreement to "explore where there might be common ground".

He said he could not say where the location of the customs checks close to the Border were as that was subject to discussions with the European Commission.

He said if a no-deal happened, his Government was determined that Ireland did not get dragged out of the single market.

Regarding the new controls, he said: “One thing I can reassure business is that they are not going to wake up one morning to a big surprise. There will be a lead-in time.”

Mr Varadkar rejected claims by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin that the Government was dragging its heels in telling the public of the implications of a no-deal Brexit.

“What may be happening is that people might be hearing it now for the first time because of the approaching deadline and the risk of no-deal.”

The Taoiseach later addressed the Kennedy Summer School in New Ross where he remarked: “If the House of Commons went pay-per-view, they would make a lot of money. It has been fascinating to watch it.”

“I don’t really think a taoiseach would ever call somebody a big girl’s blouse. It’s just not what you would expect from the mother of all parliaments,” Mr Varadkar said, referencing a comment Mr Johnson appeared to make across the chamber to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Mr Varadkar told the audience at St Michael’s Theatre the situation in Britain was volatile but said that irrespective of the outcome, Ireland would have to maintain a good relationship with our nearest neighbour.

He also suggested that US vice-president Mike Pence’s comments on Brexit during their joint press conference could have been more balanced. Mr Pence strongly backed the British prime minster in his comments, and urged Ireland and the EU to accept UK sovereignty.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times