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Dublin: 3 °C Tuesday 18 February, 2020

Tánaiste warns risk of disorderly Brexit is 'significant'

A detailed update on the government’s contingency planning will be brought before Cabinet tomorrow.

Image: Sam Boal/

TÁNAISTE SIMON COVENEY has warned that the chances of a disorderly Brexit have never been higher and the Government now considered the risk of this outcome on 31 October as “significant”.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs said he will bring a detailed update on the government’s contingency planning across all departments and State agencies to Cabinet tomorrow. 

Once agreed by Cabinet, Coveney said the documents will be laid before the Oireachtas and published in full ahead of a Dáil debate on Brexit preparations later this week.

The updated contingency action plan is to build on the contingency plan published last December and the legislation passed by the Oireachtas in March. 

Writing in the Irish Times this morning, Coveney said there has been to some inaccurate utterances about ourselves, the EU and the backstop recently.

“Of course people can have their own opinions, but they cannot have their own facts.

“The facts are that Brexit is a British decision, triggering article 50 on March 29th, 2017, was a British decision, and the red lines laid down for the negotiation are British red lines.

“We hope sensible evidence-based politics prevails over slogans in the UK, but we cannot bank on that,” he said. 

Both the candidates in the race to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister – Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson – have said they would be prepared to leave the EU without a deal.

Serious error 

Coveney went on to say that the biggest danger Ireland faces is assuming that a disorderly Brexit will be averted in October.”To assume this would be a serious error.”

The former head of the UK’s Brexit department echoed Coveney’s sentiment telling BBC’s Panorama that everyone should worry about no deal.

Philip Rycroft said the planning operation for exiting the EU was “an unprecedented situation” and “the biggest exercise across government over the last few decades”.

Rycroft, who had been in charge of preparing the UK for a no-deal Brexit until March, said a no-deal would be “a very abrupt change to our major trading relationship.”

I think everybody should be worried about what happens in a no-deal situation. We would be taking a step into the unknown.

No-deal planning work with the European Commission will continue in the coming weeks, Coveney said, to achieve the shared twin goals of preventing a hard Border while also protecting the EU’s single market.

“The State’s number one contingency is, and will remain, our EU membership, with all of the support and security that brings,” the Tánaiste said. 

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Adam Daly

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