The Government will continue its no-deal Brexit preparations despite more hopeful signals from the London parliament of a positive outcome, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said.
Mr Coveney was speaking as he introduced the biggest-ever law-making package in the State's history, aimed at preparing Ireland for the consequences of a disorderly Brexit on March 29. He said the only ones who could prevent a no-deal outcome were the Westminster MPs.
"Today's debate at the House of Commons illustrates the fluidity of the situation and accordingly the need for us to be prepared for all eventualities," the Foreign Affairs Minister told the Dáil, in a clear reference to the emerging possibility of a Brexit extension beyond the deadline.
Mr Coveney repeated his hope that the mammoth piece of emergency legislation, which will take three weeks to pilot through the Dáil and Seanad, will never actually be used because a reasonable conclusion to Brexit can still be found.
He said the EU was still trying to help the UK, but would also stand by its commitments to Ireland on the backstop.
The Tánaiste said he was happy the UK-Ireland common travel area, which pre-dates the EU, would continue whatever the outcome. He said this would allow continued common work, study, healthcare and welfare provisions to apply between the two islands.
He said the Irish Government was determined to maintain strong law enforcement and security co-operation with the UK, particularly regarding Northern Ireland. The draft law provides for this, including extradition provisions.
Provisions on transport will protect cross-Border bus services and ensure continued service for passengers and commuters by covering areas such as recognition of EU and UK driver qualification.
The bill also enables the Energy Regulator to address possible issues arising from a no-deal Brexit and to maintain the operation of the Single Electricity Market (SEM).
It also covers taxation to minimise business disruption and sets out financial support for business.
Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers noted that the Dáil members, across all parties, had taken a more positive and mature approach to the issue than their UK counterparts.
But she also castigated Sinn Féin for what she dubbed "a cheap stunt" in moving a no-confidence motion against Health Minister Simon Harris last week.
Ms Chambers said the Government had been slow to introduce this legislation and still had to fully outline what income supports would be available to farmers.
She said other countries, such as Holland and France, were far more advanced in their planning, but Ireland risked being hit far worse.
Sinn Féin's David Cullinane said his party would support the passage of the legislative package. But he also accused the Government of being afraid of planning for the prospect of a united Ireland via a Border poll.
Labour leader Brendan Howlin warned that some tax provisions appeared excessive. He also warned that a no-deal outcome could further sour UK-Irish relations as there was a risk that UK Brexiteers would further blame Ireland for some economic fallout.
He also queried the Government keeping powers to make special orders.
BRITISH Prime Minister Theresa May today offered her Parliament the chance to vote in just over two weeks time on whether to delay Brexit or go for a potentially disorderly no-deal exit from the European Union if her attempt to ratify a divorce deal fails.