Belfast Telegraph

No-deal Brexit would harm UK, Ireland and Europe, Dublin warns

The Irish Government has published a wide range of worst case contingency laws.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney gave an update on Brexit preparations (Brian Lawless/PA)
Tanaiste Simon Coveney gave an update on Brexit preparations (Brian Lawless/PA)

A no-deal Brexit would be a lose, lose, lose for the UK, Ireland and Europe, the Irish deputy premier warned as he outlined emergency plans.

The Irish Government published a wide range of worst case contingency laws on Friday that will be enacted if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

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

The huge suite 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 – a move that will give the government in Dublin more latitude to offer support to farms and other affected businesses.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney, who unveiled the legislative package at Government Buildings in Dublin, said he hoped the Bill would never need to be enacted.

“My only desire is to see this legislation sit on the shelf,” he said.

But he warned a no-deal Brexit would cause widespread damage.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

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Tanaiste Simon Coveney and Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee gave a press conference (Brian Lawless/PA)

Ireland’s premier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, said: “Our focus remains on the UK ratifying the Withdrawal Agreement, which was concluded following intensive negotiations between the UK and the EU.

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

“We are doing all we can to avoid a no-deal scenario, but we need to be ready in case it does happen.

“This special law enables us to mitigate against some of the worst effects of no deal by protecting citizens’ rights, security, and facilitating extra supports for vulnerable businesses and employers.”

The DUP’s Sammy Wilson said a lack of border checks in Ireland’s emergency Brexit plans proved warnings about the frontier were just careless rhetoric.

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

The party’s Brexit spokesman said 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 70s, 80s and 90s,” he said.

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

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

Despite drawing up wide reaching plans to absorb the impact of a no-deal across Irish society, the Dublin government’s public position has consistently been that its contingency measures do not include proposals for border checkpoints.

The EU Commission’s move on state aid rules governing the agriculture sector will enable the Irish Government to increase the maximum amount it can use to support farmers without prior Commission approval.

On Friday, the Commission also approved a specific Irish state aid application which will allow a Co Cork cheese company to receive state aid funding to diversify its business away from reliance on the UK market.

Carbery Food Ingredients Ltd, which works with 1,260 farmers, currently produces Cheddar cheese, principally for British consumers.

The 5.75 million euro (£5 million) state aid boost will support the company as it shifts to the production of Mozzarella cheese with the aim of finding new buyers.

The Irish Government’s Omnibus Bill, known as the Miscellaneous Provisions (Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on 29 March 2019) Bill, is made up of 15 parts and was prepared by nine ministers.

The proposed laws cover a wide range of areas and focuses on protecting Irish citizens’ rights, supporting businesses and jobs, healthcare, transport, education and energy.

The Bill will be debated in the Dail next week and then in committees the following week, before being debated in the upper chamber, the Seanad.

President Michael D Higgins will sign it into law if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

The leader of the country’s main opposition party said the Irish government was not adequately prepared for a no-deal Brexit, despite its 70-page Brexit contingency legislation.

Fianna Fail’s Micheal Martin said: “I don’t think we’re adequately prepared for a no-deal Brexit… the Government perhaps thought they would have a deal earlier.”

He added that ministers would not have been in the position to publish the legislation if Fianna Fail had pulled the plug on the confidence and supply deal as some other political parties had been urging.

Last year Fianna Fail committed that it would not bring down the Fine Gael minority government as the country prepared for Brexit.

Sinn Fein’s Brexit spokesman David Cullinane said the Bill showed the “sorry state” of Brexit.

“We have been reduced to moving emergency legislation in the Dail just to keep very basic but very important services in place (including) access to education and having access to health services north and south, east and west,” he said.

“It shows the chaos of Brexit is clear for all to see.”

Mr Cullinane reiterated Sinn Fein’s calls for a referendum on Irish unity.

“Would anyone, apart from the DUP and some unionists, argue that having one part of the island outside the Customs Union and the Single Market, a hardening of the border, the potential of physical infrastructure or some form of checks, would be acceptable to the people of Ireland?” he added.

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