Friday 22 June 2018

British are being 'walked towards Dover cliffs' and 'nightmare' Brexit scenario, warns Howlin

Labour leader Brendan Howlin. Photo: Frank McGrath
Labour leader Brendan Howlin. Photo: Frank McGrath
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The British people are being walked "towards the Dover cliffs" and the risk of a "nightmare-scenario" Brexit, Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin has said.

He made the remarks after alleged UK government contingency planning scenarios emerged suggesting that Brexit would result in food and petrol shortages there in the event of a failure to reach a deal with the EU.

"If the no-deal scenario materialises we owe it to our friends in the UK to support a referendum which would allow the UK to reverse the previous referendum result," Mr Howlin said.

He also criticised the British government for failing to put forward a solution to avoiding a hard Border in Ireland, and warned: "We are running out of time."

UK Prime Minister Theresa May's government is under pressure from Brussels and Dublin to put forward its plan for the Irish Border before a crunch EU summit later this month.

The British 'Sunday Times' newspaper reported that in one possible no-deal scenario, secret contingency planning by UK officials would see the port of Dover collapse on day one of Brexit.

DUP leader Arlene Foster. Photo: PA
DUP leader Arlene Foster. Photo: PA

Supermarkets in Scotland and Cornwall would run out of food within days.

And petrol pumps would start to run dry within two weeks.

Mr Howlin warned that such a scenario would have an impact on working and poorer people first.

"The British political establishment has been walking the British people towards the Dover cliffs for two years now," he said.

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid was asked about the newspaper report on the BBC's 'The Andrew Marr Show'.

"I have to say I don't recognise any bit of that at all and, as home secretary, as anyone would expect, I'm deeply involved in no-deal preparations as much as I am of course in getting a deal," he said.

He said that he didn't think any such outcome would come to pass.

Mr Javid said that his government is focused on achieving a Brexit deal with the EU.

But he argued that even in the event this didn't happen, it is important for other countries that trade would continue.

He said he believes there will be "good progress" in relation to British proposals on future customs arrangements which are crucial to avoiding a hard Border in Ireland.

The British cabinet is divided on how to solve the Border issue, with some, led by Mrs May, favouring some form of customs partnership with the EU.

Others, including Brexit secretary David Davis, have put forward so-called maximum facilitation, or 'max fac', proposals involving technological solutions.

Mr Javid said that there has been "robust debate".

But he added: "I'm absolutely confident as we get to the June [EU] council meeting that the prime minister will have a good set of proposals and our colleagues in Europe will respond positively."

Meanwhile, DUP leader Arlene Foster has responded to a leaked proposal that is being drawn up by Mr Davis for a 16km 'buffer zone' and a joint EU and UK status as a solution to the Northern Ireland Border.

Derided

The suggestion has been widely derided both here and in Britain since it emerged late last week.

Ms Foster dismissed the idea as "pure speculation".

She said that her party wasn't consulted on it.

Mrs May's government relies on the DUP to stay in power.

Ms Foster told Sky News that a "red line" for the DUP is to ensure Northern Ireland is not treated differently to the rest of the UK.

"I have confidence that she knows that she cannot bring forward anything that will breach that red line or we simply will not be able to support it," she said.

Irish Independent

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business