Monday 25 March 2019

Coveney says it would be 'crazy' if tariffs imposed post-Brexit

Tanaiste Simon Coveney (Niall Carson/PA Wire)
Tanaiste Simon Coveney (Niall Carson/PA Wire)

Cormac McQuinn Political Correspondent

TÁNAISTE Simon Coveney said it would be "crazy" if tariffs were to be imposed on agri-food products post-Brexit, adding: "we can't allow it to happen".

Mr Coveney said he still believes it can be avoided.

He made the remarks at the Oireachtas committee on the Good Friday Agreement and ahead of the government publishing emergency legislation needed for a no-deal Brexit tomorrow.

Mr Coveney said: "Nobody should pretend that we can have such a comprehensive contingency plan in place that a no-deal Brexit can be managed easily. It’s nonsense. It can’t."

He said jobs would still be created here, but not as many and warned that Ireland would likely be plunged into deficit in the case of a no-deal Brexit and be forced to borrow to fund and protect vulnerable sectors of the economy.

Mr Coveney singled out the agri-food sector.

He said: "We’ve had confusing messages over the last number of weeks on imposition of tariffs under WTO [World Trade Organisation] rules that could be triggered in the context of a no-deal Brexit.

"Again whether you’re a farmer in Northern Ireland or your’e a farmer down here the impact is hugely significant.

"Imagine the consequence of milk being produced in Northern Ireland - 40pc of the milk being produced in Northern Ireland is actually processed south of the border – having to potentially implement tariffs somewhere in the early 40s in terms of percent.

"This would be a lose for everybody.

“It would be crazy and we can’t allow it to happen and I don’t believe it will happen.

“But we don’t control all the levers here and so we need to plan for that worst case scenario just in case and we are."

Mr Coveney said that the government will publish its omnibus bill for a no-deal Brexit tomorrow which has 15 different parts.

In relation to cross border healthcare arrangements he said: "Just to reassure you even in a no deal worst case scenario we will have emergency legislation in place to ensure that cross-border healthcare provision can continue".

He among a "myriad" of health services that are covered children from Belfast will still be able to come to Dublin or specialist paediatric care, that people in Donegal will be able to cross the border to Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry for treatment.

He said there will be measures to protect:

  • The all-island electricity market;
  • Supports for third level students;
  • Pension payments between the two jurisdictions.
  • Cross-border train and bus services.

Mr Coveney said the impact of a no-deal Brexit would be "very dramatic" and he believes it won't be allowed to happen because of the consequences.

He said he believes a Brexit deal will be done but insisted the current Withdrawal Agreement won't be reopened for negotiation.

Mr Coveney said there may be other ways to provide reassurance on the so-called backstop to avoid a hard border which is that cause of much of the opposition to the current deal in Westminster.

He said no one wants the backstop to be used and if it was it would only be temporary. But he warned that the time limits and unilateral exit clauses won't be agreed to.

He said there's been absolute solidarity in Europe on this.

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section