Belfast Telegraph

Irish minister says no-deal Brexit will be disastrous for everybody

Charlie Flanagan
Charlie Flanagan

By Cormac McQuinn and Cate McCurry

A no-deal Brexit would be "disastrous" for the UK, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson and 'hard Brexiteers' are heading straight for the Halloween deadline "come what may", a senior Irish government minister has said.

Charlie Flanagan made the remarks after a weekend where Mr Johnson met European Council president Donald Tusk at the G7 Summit in France, where there appears to have been no progress in breaking the Brexit impasse.

It comes after it emerged that the European Union expects the UK to honour all its financial obligations made during its membership of the bloc - even after a no-deal Brexit.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney said there was "certainly no big breakthroughs" and issued a renewed warning to businesses to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Johnson said at the weekend that the prospect of a Brexit deal is "touch and go" and claimed it would be the EU's fault if no deal was made.

He wants the backstop, designed to avoid a hard border in Ireland, dropped.

Mr Flanagan, the Irish Justice Minister, gave his assessment of how negotiations will go over the coming weeks saying "there's a big challenge here".

"It seems clear that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Cabinet - comprising as they do a team of hard Brexiteers - are heading straight for October 31 come what may.

"So there's a lot of work to do."

Mr Flanagan added: "A no-deal Brexit will be disastrous for the UK in particular.

"It will be very bad for Ireland.

"It will be very bad for the European Union and we need to do everything we can to avoid it."

Meanwhile, the Republic's European Affairs Minister has denied that the current Brexit deal is dead.

Ruling out a time limit on the backstop, Fine Gael's Helen McEntee said the only way of avoiding a no-deal Brexit is by the UK backing the Withdrawal Agreement.

On Sunday, Fine Gael's former Europe minister Lucinda Creighton said there must be a "compromise" on the backstop and called for a five-year time limit on the backstop to avoid economic devastation.

Ms McEntee was asked about her comments and whether Ireland and the EU should offer a time limit.

"A backstop with a time limit ceases to be a backstop, and it exists as an insurance mechanism," she said.

"It's there based on the fact that the UK have decided to leave the EU, it's based on the fact that they have laid down red lines that they're leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union.

"It's based on the commitments that they have made to protect the Good Friday Agreement, to protect the invisible border, but also to protect the all island economy.

"We have always said if there are other options, if there are other ways to deal with all of those commitments and to address all of our concerns, then we're very willing to listen to them."

Ms McEntee accused Mr Johnson of trying to replace the backstop with only a commitment to "find some other solutions".

Asked if she thinks the Withdrawal Agreement in its current form is dead, Ms McEntee said: "I don't accept that, the (UK) said themselves in a no-deal scenario, they would want to engage very quickly with the EU.

"We need to try and re-establish engagement, we're certainly glad to see Boris Johnson has made a number of visits this week. But obviously with less than 10 weeks to go, the only people that can take a no-deal off the table is the UK."

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