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Theresa May to meet Leo Varadkar in Dublin tomorrow

Brexit will, of course, be at the top of the agenda.

Updated Dec 11th 2018, 5:40 PM

leo-102 Theresa May and Leo Varadkar pictured in London in September 2017. Source: John Stillwell/PA Archive/PA Images

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Theresa May is set to meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin tomorrow.

The two leaders will meet at Government Buildings tomorrow evening in advance of the European Council meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

Brexit will, of course, be at the top of the agenda.

Today, Tánaiste Simon Coveney brought a memo to Cabinet on the contingency planning put in place in the scenario of a no-deal Brexit. It outlined that all government departments are to be prepared for “all eventualities” in the case of an “orderly” or “disorderly” Brexit.

A government spokesperson said this evening, that contingency planning has been taking place since the UK voted to leave the EU, however, the “planning phase” has now shifted gear to the “implementation phase”.

The Taoiseach told the Dáil today there are the contingency plans happening at European level, led by the Commission, and those that are specific to Ireland, which are led by the Irish government.

“The plans in Brussels will not be finalised until the middle of January but we are happy to make them public as we move forward. Indeed, it will be necessary to make them public because it will require the recruitment of staff, which must be made public, infrastructure at ports and airports, which will have to be tendered for and thus be made public, and legislation.

“In some cases it will be simple legislation to add words such as ‘and the United Kingdom’ beside the European Union and to make exceptions for the United Kingdom in certain circumstances. Again, that must be made public because we will be asking the Oireachtas to enact that legislation.It will also involve business supports, many of which are already well known.

“Additional supports around state aid might be necessary after 28 March. These things must be done in consort with Brussels. They must all be done together and they must not contradict each other,” said Varadkar.

It is understood government departments have been instructed to have legislative changes that may be needed from within their own departments ready, with time likely to be set aside in the Dáil and Seanad in the new year, if necessary.

However, while the government appears to be putting plans in place for increase supports needed at ports and airports, a government spokesperson this evening stated that “no preparations for a hard border” have been put in place.

Yesterday May confirmed she was postponing today’s crucial House of Commons vote on the draft Withdrawal Agreement so she can go back to Brussels and ask for certain changes to be made.

Varadkar and Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, have both said the deal struck between the European Union and Britain cannot be renegotiated.

May told the House the current agreement “would be rejected by a significant margin” but stated: “I’m in absolutely no doubt that this deal is the right one.”

While the stakes appear to be getting higher with the visit of May announced late this afternoon, a government spokesperson said the government still believes a no-deal Brexit is avoidable, however, he added that government preparations have “intensified” due to the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

One of the main sticking points is the proposed backstop arrangement. This aims to avoid a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland and could see the North stay aligned to some EU rules.

Many politicians have raised concerns about the backstop element of the deal – including MPs in May’s own Conservative Party, as well as members of Arlene Foster’s Democratic Unionist Party – which is propping up May’s minority government. 

The DUP believes the backstop threatens the United Kingdom and could lead to a trade border in the Irish Sea.

There have been calls for no-confidence motions in both the British government and May to be put forward, as well as calls for May to resign – from outside and inside her own party. 

With additional reporting by Christina Finn

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Órla Ryan

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