Wednesday 23 October 2019

'300,000 new Irish passport requests from UK if no deal'

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Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

A massive 40pc hike in passport applications is expected next year under the Government's contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit.

Officials are predicting a flood of 300,000 extra applications from Britain and Northern Ireland in 2019 if the UK crashes out of Europe without a withdrawal agreement.

It comes as the Government ramps up preparations for a no-deal Brexit and is to publish more details of its contingency planning later this week.

There has already been a surge in demand for Irish passports from UK-based applicants since the 2016 Brexit vote.

Last year saw more than 150,000 passports granted to Irish citizens in Northern Ireland and Britain out of the overall total of 779,000 documents issued in 2017.

The worst-case Brexit scenario could see that figure double next year alone if all the expected applications were granted.

The Passport Office has been struggling to meet demand, with the Government approving the hiring of 220 temporary staff to process a backlog that built up earlier this year.

The Irish Independent understands that Government modelling of the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit would require "significant extra resources" for the Passport Office to hire more than 100 additional staff.

Meanwhile, the Government denied it has ordered the stockpiling of medicines in the wake of a report over the weekend suggesting it had done so.

A spokesman for Tánaiste Simon Coveney insisted the Government has not triggered any such measure. He said that under current regulations Ireland continually has a two to three-month rolling stock of medicines "as a back-up as par for the course".

Meanwhile, Mr Coveney was forced to deny a claim of a hostile relationship between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

British newspaper the 'Mail on Sunday' quoted sources as saying Mrs May "loathes" Mr Varadkar and has "outsourced" communications with the Irish Government to David Lidington, whose role is effectively deputy prime minister.

Mr Coveney called the claims "absolute nonsense" and he insisted Mr Varadkar's relationship with Mrs May was "a good one, it's a professional one and it needs to be at the moment".

He also denied Mrs May was snubbed by EU leaders at last week's Brussels summit.

She had sought additional assurances that the so-called backstop to avoid a hard Border in Ireland would be temporary to placate Brexiteers opposed to her Withdrawal Agreement with the EU.

Speaking on RTÉ's 'The Week in Politics', Mr Coveney said the EU wanted to hear what the UK was looking for and wanted to accommodate Mrs May, but won't reopen negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement. EU leaders did offer a pledge to seek to complete a new free trade deal fast enough so that the backstop won't be needed.

Government sources last night said the EU provided assurances to the UK and "now the ball is with London".

Irish Independent

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