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'Anything is possible now': No-deal Brexit is more likely than ever before, says Tánaiste

‘We do have to prepare for the worst case,’ said Simon Coveney.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney
Tánaiste Simon Coveney
Image: Sam Boal

A NO-DEAL crash out Brexit is “more likely than it’s been at any point”, according to Tánaiste Simon Coveney. 

Theresa May announced this morning that she will step down as Conservative leader on 7 June, paving the way for a Tory leadership contest with the eventual winner set to take over as British prime minister. 

She will remain in the post until a successor is appointed. A Conservative Party leadership contest will now get underway in earnest

With May stepping aside, speculation is rife that Brexiteer Boris Johnson might take her place, placing a question mark over the future of the agreed withdrawal agreement. 

“I think anything is possible now. Britain needs to be careful. From an EU perspective, patience has run out. The EU wants to get on with very challenging political questions,” Coveney told Newstalk today.

I haven’t relaxed and nor has the government. The worst case scenario is Britain crashing out without a deal. Short term contingency plans in place. We do have to prepare for the worst case. Now I think it’s more likely than it’s been at any point. I think it can be avoided. We’ll have to work with a new Prime Minister.
We have to be prepared in case politics fails us. We have to plan for all scenarios. 

Coveney said he and the Taoiseach will “ensure Irish interests are protected”. 

He said the withdrawal agreement “has negotiated and compromised over a three-year period”, reiterating the agreement can’t be reopened. 

Extension possible

“The assumption that some have in the UK that they’ll simply be able to ask for another extension, and they’ll get it with no strings attached, is naive. An extension is possible, it’s likely.

“I think many in the UK see this process as humiliating to Britain. It’s a proud country, a great country. People in Britain are sick of it. They want to move. I’d love Britain to stay in the EU. Everybody is losing here. I think the reality is that Britain is likely to leave and there’ll be more and more pressure on whoever is in government to deliver,” he added. 

Coveney criticised UK politician Jacob Rees-Mogg’s argument that neither Ireland or the UK want a border, and therefore it there’s little to be concerned about.#

“That’s a nonsense argument. If there’s a no deal Brexit, Ireland will have a responsibility to work with EU and UK to protect the EU single market. We will have to put some mechanism in place. We know that it’s complicated, and very difficult to do that and avoid physical checks on the border. What we will not do is create a security risk. We’ve been engaging with the EU for some time,” he said. 

He added: 

Anyone who tries to twist my words really doesn’t understand what’s going on here. The all-island economy will not function as it does today if there’s a no-deal Brexit. We have to figure out how best to do that [border checks]. It’ll be damaging for Northern Ireland that we’re all trying to avoid.

Coveney said there is a lot political grandstanding, adding that Irish position cannot be abandoned.

“A hard Brexit seems almost impossible to avoid after Prime Minister Theresa May said she would stand down, the acting spokeswoman for the Spanish government said today.

“A hard Brexit seems a reality that is almost impossible to avoid,” Isabel Celaa said in a press conference following a weekly cabinet meeting.

The Spanish government has contingency plans in place for all eventual outcomes over Britain’s planned exit from Europe, Celaa added.

Speaking yesterday, ahead of May’s resignation, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Brexit is very much going to be back centre stage because of political changes in London and the European elections.

“These are dangerous times in the European Union,” added Coveney, stating “things are changing, politics is going to come more divisive, the relationship that we have with our closest neighbour is one that we have to protect and value and we need to respect their decision, but we also need to protect Irish interests and ensure they are understood and are protected in terms of any final arrangements”.

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