Saturday 23 March 2019

Coveney: 'Contingency plans are in place... but a no-deal Brexit will put a huge strain on our economy'

Disruption: Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: Frank McGrath
Disruption: Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: Frank McGrath
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

TÁNAISTE Simon Coveney says that while contingency plans are in place for a no-deal Brexit, Britain crashing out of the European Union will put a "huge strain on the Irish economy".

The Government's contingency action plan for a no-deal Brexit - due to be published on Friday - is being discussed today by the Cabinet.

With just 38 days left until the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney is to present a range of legislative measures for key sectors across the economy.

Mr Coveney says the measures will focus on how to support the economy, maintain jobs and protect Irish citizens.

The legislation will allow for ongoing cross-Border healthcare, electricity, transport, student grants and pension payments.

The Fine Gael minister says that while he still believes a no-deal Brexit will be avoided, "we have to plan for it just in case".

He revealed Ireland is now spending "hundreds of millions of euro" on preparing for a no-deal Brexit, which would be a "crazy outcome" after years of negotiations.

"It is important to say that, while we have a huge amount of contingency planning in place, I wouldn't like to give the impression that we can easily manage a no-deal brexit. It will put huge strain on the Irish enocomy. It will put a huge strain on agriculture and various sectors, but we are doing everything we physically can to ensure we prepare as best we can to protect Irish interests," he told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

Mr Coveney said difficult discussions will have to be had in the event of no-deal.

"We will have to find a way of preventing border infrastructure as know the corrosive impact that would have on relationships between Northern Ireland and the Republic."

When asked about DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson accusing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of behaving “in an abominable way” and "setting back relations by years", Mr Coveney said "I'm not sure Sammy Wilson best represents the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic, which is an incredibly close one."

"They are our closest neighbours, our closest friends... we share an island together. My job is to ensure we protect those relationships and we are doing that. That doesn't mean we aren't having difficult discussions - we are.

"We have to protect core Irish interests and British interests on the island of Ireland but that doesn't mean the relationship is fundamentally damaged. We will find a way forward in the next few weeks."

The Tánaiste also advised people to avoid stock piling medicines as this could "cause problems with supply".

He said the Government is confident there are between eight and 12 weeks supply of all medicines in Ireland.

"There aren't any medicines on a risk list in terms of not being supplied after the end of March but we will continue to monitor that to make sure there is no delay in supply," he said.

Nine government departments have almost completed work on legal changes which seek to mitigate against the worst effects of Brexit.

Among the concerns to be discussed today is that the Single Electricity Market (SEM) could be prone to "unusual market behaviour or abuse" if the UK crashes out.

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