Belfast Telegraph

Brexit: Republic and EU's plans for no-deal proof backstop is trap, says Dodds

Nigel Dodds
Nigel Dodds
Leo Varadkar
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds has said the fact that the Republic and the European Union have not addressed the border in published plans for a no-deal Brexit has exposed the backstop as a "trap".

Despite the looming possibility of the UK crashing out of Europe without a deal, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that Dublin has made "no preparations whatsoever" for a hard border.

He added that he felt if the Irish Government made plans for a hard border it would become a "self-fulfilling prophecy".

Mr Dodds claimed: "The utter hypocrisy of those espousing the current withdrawal agreement with its trap of a backstop has been completely exposed.

"The EU published its no-deal plans. There are detailed plans for a wide raft of sectors. But it totally avoids spelling out what happens on the border. What does that tell you?

"Even in the event of a so-called no-deal scenario a hard border won't happen.

"The notion that it's necessary to have a border and checks in the Irish Sea to avoid a border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic is an utter con trick.

"Even the Dublin authorities in its no-deal plans admitted no checks on goods at the border."

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the border was not addressed in his Government's contingency plan in the event of a no-deal Brexit because the backstop was the only solution.

"For us to be giving signals that there's any other way this could be solved would be foolish," he added.

Mr Coveney reiterated that in the absence of a backstop and a Brexit deal, preventing physical border infrastructure in Ireland would be "difficult and involve hard choices".

But he said it would not be helpful for a document, which runs to more than 130 pages, to be "dominated by that border debate".

Speaking yesterday, the Taoiseach said the draft agreement currently tabled by Prime Minister Theresa May was the key to avoiding physical infrastructure on the border.

"We are not preparing for a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland," Mr Varadkar said.

"We have made no preparations whatsoever for physical infrastructure or anything like that.

"We certainly do not want it to become a self-fulfilling prophecy."

The Irish Government has unveiled contingency plans to cope with a potential no-deal Brexit, identifying affected sectors which would require up to between 40 and 50 pieces of new legislation.

The no-deal plans include the purchase of land at ports to prevent congestion from new customs.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the "robust action by the Irish Government is a stark indication of the serious chaos ahead".

"This action rightly highlights that the island of Ireland will be disproportionately impacted by Brexit, leaving Northern Ireland sharing a land border with another EU state; despite myths peddled by Brexiteers, this leaves Ireland in a very precarious position," he said.

"These plans, in contrast to the weak technical papers issued by the British Government and the absence of any action from Stormont, at least acknowledge the state of affairs as they are.

"But regardless of where we are post-March 29, the backstop must be in place to protect the future interests of people here."

Ulster Unionist MLA Steve Aiken said it was not surprising Dublin had produced the plan.

"We are rapidly hurtling towards a no-deal Brexit and such an outcome would be felt just as acutely in many sectors of the Republic as it would here," he said.

"For the last two-and-a-half years the negotiators on both sides have brought us to this ridiculous situation and as a result we're now less than 100 days from an economic precipice. Every preparatory step that can be taken must now be taken."

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said the warning signs were there that no-deal would be an "economic disaster" and there was now growing concern in the business community.

"The Prime Minister's draft withdrawal deal is in no way perfect, but it is definitely preferable to crashing out of the EU with no deal," he said.

"Those who oppose it have not set out a viable plan B. MPs need to back this dea, or we face the prospect of economic instability."

Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O'Neill has told Secretary of State Karen Bradley that the Westminster Brexit debate "has descended into farce and pantomime".

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