Wednesday 18 September 2019

As Leo meets Boris: No-deal Brexit to spark rural recession as cities prosper

  • An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar prepares for a showdown with Boris Johnson today
  • New study predicts the fallout from Brexit will be 'brutal' for some communities
  • Parts of rural Ireland will be plunged into recession by a no-deal Brexit
Solutions: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will try to find ‘common ground’ in talks with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: PA
Solutions: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will try to find ‘common ground’ in talks with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: PA

Kevin Doyle and Shawn Pogatchnik

Parts of rural Ireland will be plunged into recession by a no-deal Brexit, but urban areas will continue to grow.

As Taoiseach Leo Varadkar prepares for a showdown with Boris Johnson today, a new study predicts the fallout from Brexit will be “brutal” for some communities.

Leading accountancy firm EY’s ‘Economic Eye’ report says that in a worst-case scenario Dublin can achieve a growth rate of 4pc, but many rural areas could experience a 2pc fall next year.

Chief economist with EY Neil Gibson told the Irish Independent: “This disruption we foresee in the event of a no-deal Brexit, at a human level, can be pretty brutal.”

The embattled British prime minister will make the briefest of visits to Dublin this morning before flying home to try and collapse his own government.

Government figures here are suspicious Mr Johnson wants to use the talks to bolster a narrative that progress is being made in his bid to scrap the backstop.

Mr Varadkar said UK claims that a deal is getting closer are “a very optimistic assessment of where we stand”.

EU capitals will be closely monitoring Mr Johnson’s statements amid speculation more Tory MPs will resign.

While Ireland doesn't negotiate directly with the UK on Brexit, the two leaders can discuss potential alternatives to the backstop.

Mr Varadkar said he doesn't anticipate "a big breakthrough", but acknowledged the meeting comes against a backdrop where the "stakes are high".

Led by the nose: Britain’s PM Boris Johnson will need to grab the bull by the horns if he is to find common ground for a new deal with the EU. Photo: Andrew Milligan
Led by the nose: Britain’s PM Boris Johnson will need to grab the bull by the horns if he is to find common ground for a new deal with the EU. Photo: Andrew Milligan

Read more here: Kevin Doyle: 'Taoiseach can't afford subtlety if he wants to bring curtain down on PM's 'Brexit lies' tour'

The UK is toying with the idea of an all-Ireland system of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks on agricultural products - but Mr Varadkar said yesterday this would only remove the need for around 30pc of border checks.

"It's not enough on its own. We would need a single Irish economic zone, or whatever you would like to call it, to cover more than agriculture and food," he said.

Asked whether he would consider a return to earlier proposals of Northern Ireland-specific solutions, the Taoiseach said Ireland had always been open to this idea.

"It will be interesting to see whether we could find some common ground on a Northern Ireland-specific solution, but I will have to judge that," he said.

Mr Varadkar indicated that no matter how much pressure builds, he will not compromise on the backstop.

He suggested even if that issue were resolved there is no evidence that the House of Commons would pass the Withdrawal Agreement.

Read more here: Helen McEntee: 'Compromising on the backstop is not an option because we must protect peace above all else'

"The only thing that I would say is the situation in the UK is very fluid at the moment, prime minister [Theresa] May with a parliamentary majority was unable to get a deal ratified through the House of Commons. Prime Minister Johnson doesn't have a majority so I'll be asking him how he can convince us, Ireland, the EU, that he actually is capable or has the votes to get a deal through," Mr Varadkar said.

Referring to Mr Johnson's statement that he would rather be found "dead in a ditch" than seek a Brexit delay, Mr Varadkar said: "This isn't about politicians and it isn't about our electoral prospects - it's about protecting people's jobs, people's livelihoods, protecting peace and protecting security and if an extension is required to those things well I think any politician should be prepared to do that."

While Opposition parities back Mr Varadkar's position against Mr Johnson, they will this week ramp up pressure on the Government to reveal more details on Ireland's planning for no deal.

Fianna Fáil will hold its pre-Dáil think-in today, where party leader Micheál Martin is expected to demand an explanation for what Mr Varadkar means when he says there may be checks "near the Border".

Tánaiste Simon Coveney was caught on tape last January telling Transport Minister Shane Ross not to use that phrase in case people would interpret it as the reintroduction of a physical Border.

Read more here: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says no-deal Brexit would be 'a tragedy' as he plays down chance of breakthrough before EU summit in October

Mr Varadkar said he is not in a position to explain the situation further as talks are ongoing.

"I totally understand, particularly when it comes to businesses operating in and around the Border, they want to know what is going to happen," he said. "And I want to tell them, and I'll tell them as soon as I know and as soon as we have nailed that down with the European Commission."

Irish Independent

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