The Irish economy would come under ‘significant stress’ if the UK crashed out of the EU without a deal next March, the country’s foreign minister said yesterday.
Simon Coveney also told the Irish broadcaster RTÉ that the backstop solution for the border with Northern Ireland was the only workable option.
He said the Irish government had not made any further plans for the border in its no-deal contingencies as a result.
Dublin has stepped up its planning for a hard Brexit by producing a 130-page document covering 19 sectors that will be affected.
The Irish plans include
- Buying large plots of land at Dublin and Rosslare ports to cope with congestion caused by new customs checks.
- More staff for the Irish Revenue and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
- Making a commitment to continue co-operation between law enforcement agencies in the Republic and Northern Ireland
- Securing air travel between the UK and the EU in the event of a no-deal.
Coveney, who is also deputy prime minister (Tánaiste) said he still hoped Theresa May’s draft withdrawal deal would be passed by MPs in a Commons vote in January.
But he said if not the absence of an Irish border backstop preventing customs checks between North and South would involve some ‘hard choices.’
The backstop was still the best solution, he added, and that was why no specific plans were included in the new document.
“For us to be giving signals that there’s any other way this could be solved would be foolish,” he said.
Coveney said the onus would be on London to deal with the problem, as the UK had given a commitment to protect the Good Friday peace agreement.
He added that north-south trade is more politically sensitive than at Dublin’s ports and will require ‘more complicated and difficult solutions.’
“That is why the backstop and the deal on the table needs to be passed or people need to think very seriously about it,” Coveney said.
The Irish government says in the document that its economy could be hardest hit of all 27 EU member states and that security would be “seriously impacted.”
If there is to be legislation for a no-deal scenario, it will come before the Irish parliament, the Dáil, in January.
MPs in the UK will restart a five-day debate on Mrs May’s Brexit withdrawal plan on January 9 before the crucial vote takes place, which she is forecast to lose.