Irish Foreign Minister continues no-deal Brexit plans

The Irish Government says the country cannot take their foot off the accelerator while preparing for a no-deal Brexit.

The cabinet received a briefing on whole-of-Government contingency preparations for a no-deal scenario on Tuesday.

The Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, briefed his colleagues on the work that has taken place across all departments to implement the  Government’s Contingency Action Plan published in December.

While ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement remains the Irish Government’s preferred outcome, all departments are continuing to prepare for a no-deal scenario.

Mr Coveney said there were a couple of clear messages to take away from the briefing, however no-deal planning remains the standout issue.

“The very clear message to Irish businesses and state agencies to continue planning for no-deal preparations,” he said.

“We should not take our foot off the accelerator here, in terms of the state of preparedness that we need to be at by the end of this month.”

The Irish Government’s Omnibus Brexit Bill will be debated this week, which could see a number of emergency laws implemented on things like extradition and immigration, if Britain crashes out of the EU on March 29.

The bill, and the list of 21 pieces of secondary legislation, are designed to mitigate the worst effects of a no-deal scenario.

The Government also finalised the remaining domestic decisions necessary to conclude the Common Travel Area arrangements, so a final agreement with the UK can be ratified to ensure citizens in both states can travel unencumbered.

The Government claims that by the end of March, Revenue will have more than 400 additional staff trained and in place, along with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which will have more than 200 additional personnel, to mitigate the extra customs work produced by Brexit.

Enhanced IT systems are also set to be in place to handle increased transaction levels as customs declarations are expected to increase from 1.7 million annually to about 20 million.

The spectre of a hard border on the island of Ireland has loomed large throughout Brexit negotiations, and there have been concerns that a no-deal Brexit could see physical infrastructure or customs checks at the Irish border.

“If Britain crashes out in an unmanaged way, I think the British Government has also said that there will be a need for a very serious and detailed conversation between both governments and the EU to look at what we can do to protect the peace process and protect relationships on this island, by avoiding physical infrastructure (on the border), but we know how we can do that already – it’s called the backstop,” Mr Coveney said.

Mr Coveney added that his hope was for a deal to be ratified in Westminster.

“Of course everyone is looking to next week, where there will be a vote in Westminster where we hope a Withdrawal Agreement and a future relationship agreement will be ratified, and if it’s not, that the following day, a no-deal Brexit can be avoided,” he said.

“It’s not for me to comment and not for me to tell them what to do, but it would be surprising if Westminster would vote for no-deal.

“I’ve said for many months that I think there’s a majority in Westminster who will work to avoid a no-deal, that is a lose for everybody.”

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