Westminster debate reflects fluidity of Brexit, says Coveney

The debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday illustrates the “fluidity” of Brexit, Ireland’s deputy premier has said.

As the debate on the no-deal Brexit emergency plans got under way in the Irish parliament (Dail), Simon Coveney said the events at Westminster showed the need to be prepared for “all eventualities”.

On Friday the Irish Government published the Brexit preparedness omnibus Bill which features a wide range of worst-case contingency laws 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 affected by a no-deal and secure ongoing access to essential services and products across the Irish border.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney introduced the debate on the Brexit Bill shortly after Prime Minister Theresa May offered MPs a chance to vote to delay Brexit if her deal is rejected again next month.

He told the Dail that a no-deal Brexit could only be prevented at Westminster.

“Westminster needs to make up its mind, collectively, about what it wants,” he said.

“Today’s debate at the House of Commons illustrates the fluidity of the situation and accordingly the need for us to be prepared for all eventualities.

“Our history with Britain is deep and complicated but it has arrived at a position of parity, trust and close friendship where we are co-guarantors of peace on our islands.

“The Irish and the British live together, study together, work together, marry each other and have families together. We understand each other’s sense of self and sense of humour.

“In politics we agree on a lot more than we disagree on. Brexit must not be allowed to take any of this away from us.”

He said the current position of the Brexit process poses “unique and unprecedented challenges” for Ireland.

Mr Coveney added that the Bill is a key part of the Irish government’s plans to ramp up the no-deal preparations.

The 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 focus on protecting Irish citizens’ rights, supporting businesses and jobs, healthcare, transport, education and energy.

Fianna Fail’s Brexit spokeswoman Lisa Chambers said: “With 31 days to Brexit it is extremely disappointing and worrying that we find ourselves in this situation having to pass emergency legislation to try and minimise the damage to our country and our citizens because of the UK’s Government’s failure to ratify the withdrawal treaty which they negotiated and helped to craft.

“We are but onlookers to this entire mess, something which we did not ask for or create but which nevertheless impacts on us heavily.”

She went on to accuse the Irish Government of giving opposition parties insufficient time to scrutinise the Bill.

“It is in all of our interests to ensure that this Bill is as robust as it can possibly be and it is our opinion that greater time should have been given to this crucial piece of legislation,” she added.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said: “Economic problems will very quickly lead to a sour political atmosphere and it is likely that Ireland will be blamed, especially by those Brexiteers who have lied to the British people about the EU for many years, and who have lied about their fantasy of unregulated trade after Brexit.”

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