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Irish government publishes no-deal Brexit contingency plan

Edmund Heaphy
·Finance and news reporter
Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney Pic: Reuters
Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney Pic: Reuters

The Irish government on Wednesday night published its expansive no-deal Brexit contingency plan, warning that such a “highly disruptive” scenario would have “profound political, economic and legal implications” for the country.

Speaking in Dublin following the publication of the document, Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney said that it made for a “sobering” read. “This is a damage-limitation exercise,” he said.

The document makes scant mention of the issue that has vexed Brexit negotiations — that of how to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland — and simply notes that the country’s commitment to “preventing the re-emergence of a hard border on the island of Ireland remains of the highest priority.”

However, Coveney noted that, though it would be “very, very difficult” to prevent a hard border in the event of a no-deal Brexit, preparations were not being made for the return of a border.

Meanwhile, the shift to preparing for a no-deal Brexit, the 131-page document cautions, will require an “acceleration” of certain types of planning.

For one thing, additional land would have to be acquired at Dublin Port to facilitate the extra checks that would become necessary if the UK must be treated as a “third country” when it leaves the European Union in March 2019.

READ MORE: What is a no-deal Brexit?

Ireland’s tax authority will have an additional 200 new employees trained and in place by the end of March, with €4m (£3.6m) in total set aside for the recruitment of staff to handle a sudden increase in import and export controls.

Of particular concern is what the Irish government calls the “landbridge” — or the route that many Irish goods take to continental Europe, which sees them travel via the UK’s road and ports network.

This route, it says, may be subject to “severe delays” in the event of a no-deal Brexit, with the Dover-Calais crossing “identified as a particular bottle neck.”

The document also welcomes EU proposals to grant UK hauliers access to the EU on a reciprocal basis, considering previous fears that a no-deal scenario could see road haulage between the EU and UK “severely restricted.”

READ MORE: As Brexit looms, Ireland is taking the lead on preparing its businesses

Meanwhile, a no-deal Brexit could also cause a bottleneck in Ireland’s parliament. Considering that some 45 changes would need to be made to the country’s laws, the document warns that it will probably be necessary to use all of the available time in parliament to pass emergency legislation.

It also points to a range of supports that the country has put in place for businesses that are likely to be adversely affected by the UK’s departure from the bloc, noting that over 2,500 people and businesses had already attended Getting Ireland Brexit Ready events.

It is not the outcome we want and our focus continues to be on securing ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement. Nevertheless, it is prudent at this stage to accelerate preparations for a no deal Brexit,” the document says.