The Irish Times view on a no-deal Brexit: stumbling to the cliff-edge

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has warned that the chances of a disorderly Brexit have never been higher

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has warned that that the chances of a disorderly Brexit have never been higher. Photograph: Pavel Golovkin/AP

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has warned that that the chances of a disorderly Brexit have never been higher. Photograph: Pavel Golovkin/AP

 

The prospect of a chaotic no-deal Brexit is growing greater by the day. Unless the British parliament manages to assert itself in a way it has singularly failed to do up to now, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union on October 31st if the firm commitments given by both candidates to be the next prime minister mean anything.

As the Government meets today to consider its contingency plans covering all departments and State agencies, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has warned that the chances of a disorderly Brexit have never been higher.

The updated contingency action plan, which will be debated in the Dáil before it breaks for the summer recess at the end of the week, will build on its predecessor published last December and the cross-party effort that went into passing the Brexit Omnibus Act in March. According to Coveney it will refine and improve on all the actions that were already in place for the March 29th Brexit deadline.

However, the fact of the matter is that regardless of the work that has gone into contingency planning there is simply no way of knowing how bad the position is going to become in a no-deal Brexit. Despite the constant refrain from the Irish and British governments about their desire to avoid a hard border it is difficult to see how checks of some kind can be avoided.

Even if the British decide not to impose any restrictions on goods going from the Republic into Northern Ireland the EU will have to take action to protect the single market and the customs union. Up to now the Government has, for understandable reasons, refused to publicly acknowledge the necessity for any kind of border controls but it will soon have to let people know what kind of arrangements it is planning to put in place.

It is not just the Border that will cause problems. Trade between the Republic and Britain will inevitably suffer severe disruption and this will also apply to Irish companies who use the landbridge across the UK for access to and from the EU market. The potential impact on Irish consumers could be enormous.

Meanwhile, yesterday, another move took place in the House of Commons to try to limit the potential damage of a disorderly Brexit. Former British attorney general Dominic Grieve sought to amend the Northern Ireland Bill, which delays Assembly elections, in a way that would block Boris Johnson from suspending parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit.

This was just the latest parliamentary manoeuvre designed to prevent a no-deal and there will undoubtedly be more before the end of October. It is possible that the opponents of a no-deal could even precipitate a UK general election before the end of October. There is little the Government and Dáil can do except prepare for the worst.

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