Threat of no-deal Brexit remains greater than ever - Coveney

Tánaiste warns Cabinet against relaxing no-deal preparations over coming months

In a detailed briefing today, Simon  Coveney told his Government colleagues that a no-deal Brexit could still be avoided but that the UK government had to come up with a solution and indicate what it wants. File photograph: Liam McBurney/PA

In a detailed briefing today, Simon Coveney told his Government colleagues that a no-deal Brexit could still be avoided but that the UK government had to come up with a solution and indicate what it wants. File photograph: Liam McBurney/PA

 

The threat of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal remains greater than ever, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has warned the Cabinet.

In a detailed briefing today, Mr Coveney told his Government colleagues that a no-deal Brexit could still be avoided but that the UK government had to come up with a solution and indicate what it wants.

“The Tánaiste briefed the Cabinet on the very real threat of a no-deal Brexit still hanging over Ireland despite all of the effort that has gone into preventing it. In particular, the Tánaiste warned against any relaxing of our preparations over the coming months,” said a spokesman for Mr Coveney.

The Cabinet was briefed about the state of play in the Brexit process as talks between the Conservative government and Labour opposition to find a solution on the UK’s exit deal collapsed last week.

Mr Coveney warned in the memo drafted against the backdrop of the unsuccessful cross-party talks in London that staff working on no-deal Brexit planning should not be redeployed during the summer.

The Government is to maintain a focus on preparing the public and private sectors for a possible no-deal exit and to encourage more businesses to prepare for new customs checks after the UK leaves the EU.

The Tánaiste has ruled out a reopening of the proposed withdrawal agreement and warned the British that the EU would not renegotiate the deal even if there was a new UK prime minister.

British prime minister Theresa May, facing pressure to resign, plans to hold a fourth vote on her thrice-rejected withdrawal agreement during the first week of June.

Mrs May has promised to stand aside for the next phase of Brexit negotiations on a future trade deal if the UK parliament passes the deal, though there is still strong opposition to the agreement.

Many are opposed to the “backstop” arrangement that Brexiteers fear could keep UK under economic rules indefinitely to avoid a hard Irish border if the EU and UK cannot solve the issue in future trade talks.

EU leaders agreed to extend the Brexit deadline to October 31st last month as the House of Commons remained divided on a potential agreement on the UK’s departure while a majority opposed a no-deal Brexit.

‘All right on the night’

Meanwhile the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned businesses cannot assume that Brexit is “going to be all right on the night”.

Speaking in the Dáil following Cabinet discussions on Brexit and the warning by Mr Coveney that the risk of a no deal Brexit has never been greater, Mr Varadkar said “we’ll be asking businesses in particular to step up their planning and avail of information, supports, advice and funding that’s already available”.

The Taoiseach said a lot of businesses were prepared and had done their “Brexit health checks”. But there were others “who are perhaps taking the view that it’s going to be all right on the night. It may well be all right on the night but we can’t assume that.”

Mr Varadkar said the Cabinet had a “detailed” discussion on Brexit following the memo presented by Mr Coveney.

He said more work needs to be done on Ehic (the European Health Insurance Card), which allows EU citizens get free or reduced cost healthcare in other EU states.

Further work was also needed on Erasmus, the EU programme which supports students to study in other EU and European Economic Area countries for undergraduate and post graduate programmes.

Mr Varadkar told Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath who raised the issue, that “we now need to put some secondary legislation in place in some areas”. Secondary legislation is regulation enacted by the Minister or delegated to a regulatory body or local authority.

He said staff were now in place for Customs and Revenue “where they’re needed and we’re going to resume information campaigns particularly informing business about the action they need to take and the supports that are now available which haven’t been fully available”.