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Varadkar says he's exploring if Ireland could take some legal business from the UK after Brexit

Varadkar had a 40-minute phone call with Chancellor Angela Merkel on how to support Theresa May’s efforts to pass her Brexit deal.

Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said that the government is looking at legal opportunities for Ireland after Brexit, saying that it could be possible for Ireland to take some business from the UK.

After the first meeting of the Cabinet of the New Year, Varadkar said that ministers had decided to prepare Brexit legislation in detail over the next two weeks, but that any no-deal legislation wouldn’t be introduced to the Dáil until March, if at all.

He said that the government agreed to explore post-Brexit opportunities for legal services.

“A partnership with the Bar Council and the Law Society, they take a view that one of the areas that could benefit from Brexit are legal services, on the basis that Ireland could… take some business from the UK.”

Varadkar also said that he had a 40-minute phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which Varadkar called an opportunity “to brainstorm a bit” on the ways in which they could help Theresa May in passing the Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons.

He added that although the Irish government was happy to give assurances on the deal, but wouldn’t accept any proposals that would alter what had been agreed by the British government so far in the Withdrawal Agreement, particularly in relation to the Irish backstop.

“Remember, the UK wanted the UK-wide element [of the backstop], we were happy to accept the Northern Ireland-only element… and they also wanted the review clause.”

These two issues have proven problematic for MPs, who are concerned that they could end up in an indefinite customs arrangement with the EU.

Brexit money

The Taoiseach also said today that the Cabinet had discussed freeing up emergency aid that would be used if there was a severe Brexit outcome, in order to help businesses, farmers and fishermen to survive in a new economic environment. 

“If we do face a hard Brexit or no-deal, largely what we will be looking for is State Aid clearance, which will be to use our own money to support companies, businesses and potentially farmers as well who are adversely affected by Brexit.”

Bear in mind Brexit is happening because of a decision by the United Kingdom, so the EU won’t be in a position to compensate us… it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect Italian or Bulgarian or Slovakian taxpayers to compensate us for a decision made by people in the UK.

“The kind of thing we will be seeking is State Aid clearance to make the transition from trading with the UK to trading with other countries.”

The Taoiseach also suggested that there were no current plans for Ireland to stockpile food or medicines, although drug wholesalers already stockpile their products.

He said that Minister for Health Simon Harris was “working closely with his department” to check with wholesalers in relation to stockpiled medicines, and said that a large amount of generics come from UK, which was something Ireland could need to prepare for.

On stockpiling food, Varadkar said that he’s “not hugely concerned”, as Ireland is an exporter. “The kind of foods [that could be limited after Brexit] are prepackaged foods from Marks & Spencer… but nobody is going to go hungry.”

“[Post-Brexit preparations are] something we’re all struggling with… Ultimately, I hope it’s going to futile,” he added.

Meanwhile, leading Brexiteer and Tory MP Jacob Rees Mogg tweeted out today: “If we leave without a deal the main culprit will be the obdurate Irish Government’s threats about the phantom border issue.”

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