Belfast Telegraph

Republic no-deal Brexit plans show talk of a hard border just bluff, says Wilson

Republic’s Tanaiste Simon Coveney and Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee
Republic’s Tanaiste Simon Coveney and Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee

By Our Political Staff

Emergency plans for a no-deal Brexit published by the Irish Government show there is no need for a hard border, a leading unionist has claimed.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson was speaking as a wide range of worst-case contingency laws was set out yesterday which will be enacted if the UK crashes out of the EU.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney, who unveiled the legislative package at Leinster House in Dublin, said a no-deal Brexit would be a "lose, lose, lose for the UK, Ireland and Europe".

The Omnibus Bill, which will be fast-tracked through the Dail, is designed to support businesses and jobs impacted by a no-deal and secure ongoing access to essential services and products across the border.

Some of the emergency provisions of the legislation include:

• Citizens will be able to continue to access health services in the other jurisdiction. This means the existing arrangements in relation to health services which currently operate between Ireland and the UK will continue to operate.

• Cross-border rail and bus services will continue to operate. These include regular scheduled services including school bus services, as well as occasional services such as sports club buses as well as tour buses.

• Justice: The current extradition system will see some changes to extradition arrangements between Ireland and the UK, as it will no longer be part of the European Arrest Warrant system.

The huge raft of proposed legislation, which will only become law if the UK leaves on March 29 without a deal, was published as the EU Commission confirmed it was relaxing certain state aid regulations, apparently in preparation for Brexit.

That is a move that will give the Irish Government more latitude to offer support to farms and other affected businesses.

Mr Coveney said that he hoped the Bill would never need to be enacted.

He said: "My only desire is to see this legislation sit on the shelf."

But he warned a no-deal Brexit would cause widespread damage, adding: "Let me be very clear in saying a disorderly Brexit will be a lose, lose, lose for the UK, for the EU and for Ireland.

"We cannot offset all of the damage it will do, but we are doing everything we can through legislation, through preparation, through investment, through information and through support of the multiple sectors and the multiple numbers of people that will be impacted potentially by that worst-case scenario."

Mr Wilson, the DUP's Brexit spokesman, said a lack of border checks in Ireland's emergency Brexit plans proved that warnings about the frontier were just careless rhetoric.

Mr Wilson claimed talk from Ireland and the EU about the risks of a hard border returning was designed to manipulate people's fears.

"This legislation points to the reality that in 2019 there is no need for the type of borders we knew in the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties," he said.

"No one is building a so-called hard border or going back to checkpoints with soldiers.

"Such talk was rhetoric designed to foment fear in genuine communities along both sides of the border. To manipulate people's fears in such a way was careless and reckless."

SDLP Brexit spokesman Daniel McCrossan said the Stormont stalemate rendered Northern Ireland devoid of similar legislation, despite being the region most at risk from a no-deal scenario. He said that the Republic's legislation was "a stark reminder as to the ill-preparedness of the North when it comes to dealing with a no-deal Brexit, or in fact any Brexit at all".

Sinn Fein's Brexit spokesman David Cullinane said the Bill showed the "sorry state" of Brexit.

"It shows the chaos of Brexit is clear for all to see," he added.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that the Irish Government's focus remains on the UK ratifying the withdrawal agreement.

"However, for the last two years we have also been preparing for the possibility that the UK leaves the EU without an agreement," he added.

"We are doing all we can to avoid a no-deal scenario."

However, he added: "But we need to be ready in case it does happen."

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