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File photo, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney with Minister of State for European Affairs, Helen McEntee.
File photo, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney with Minister of State for European Affairs, Helen McEntee.
Image: Leah Farrell

'Getting Ireland Brexit ready': Government to unveil plan as Coveney warns 'time is short'

Simon Coveney confirmed the government will launch a nationwide campaign this Thursday
Sep 18th 2018, 9:46 AM 20,150 72

Updated Sep 18th 2018, 10:27 PM

THE TÁNAISTE HAS said that the latest steps for Ireland’s contingency plans for Brexit will be rolled out this week, with a nationwide “getting Ireland Brexit ready” campaign to launch this week.

Simon Coveney and Minister of State Helen McEntee travelled to Brussels today to get an update from EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier on the divorce talks. 

It came just days after former UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson labeled the backstop measure, aimed at preventing a hard border on the island of Ireland as a “monstrosity that wipes out our [the UK's] sovereignty”.

Top of today’s agenda was a protocol on Northern Ireland and the Republic. Coveney said that, following his conversation with Barnier, it was clear that there will be no withdrawal agreement without the legally operable Irish backstop.

“Time is short and what we need to see now from both negotiating teams is heightened engagement in the lead-in to October’s critical EU summit,” he said.

We are continuing to negotiate for a sensible Brexit, and it can be done. However, we have to prepare for all scenarios.

Before departing for the meeting, Coveney discussed the situation with his Cabinet colleagues this morning as the Dáil returns from the summer recess. 

Coveney said that he and Cabinet colleagues had agreed the latest steps in “Ireland’s contingency planning and implementation”, which included 

In July, the government signed off on the hiring of 1,050 inspectors in customs, veterinary and food safety, as part of Brexit preparations aimed at protecting east/west trade.

The Tánaiste also confirmed that the first phase of a staffing programme had been sanctioned that will see 451 out of a total of 1,077 staff recruited to work at Irish ports and airports as a direct consequence of Brexit. 

Both Coveney and McEntee travelled to Brussels after the cabinet meeting, with a private meeting between the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Barnier taking place tonight. 

Today’s talks came as British Prime Minister Theresa May comes under further pressure from within her own party to scrap her Chequers plan. Speaking to RTE’s Morning Ireland pro-Brexit Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said he would “prefer no deal to the Chequers plan”.  

I believe the Chequers plan does not deliver the Brexit we promised the British people. It doesn’t take back control of our money, borders and our laws.

Can’t listen to the clip? Click here.

The plan agreed in July at British cabinet includes reference to the Irish backstop which would allow Northern Ireland stay in the EU if Brussels isn’t happy with Brexit arrangements. 

It’s led to significant backlash for May from her own party members, including Boris Johnson who left his Foreign Secretary post in protest of Chequers. 

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Bridgen said he couldn’t vote for the withdrawal agreement as proposed in Chequers and accused the EU of attempting to “annex off Northern Ireland from the UK without consulting the people”. 

Separately Britain’s Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has said he will not accept a customs border in the Irish Sea. Speaking to the Irish Times said it would be sensible to start thinking about “how checks could be conducted away from the Border”. 

Our position remains that we couldn’t see a customs border down the Irish Sea and that the economic and the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom needs to be respected.

With reporting from Sean Murray

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Aisling O'Rourke

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