Friday 18 October 2019

Government calls in crisis management specialists to help deal with no-deal fallout chaos

Confidential briefings: Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney. Photo: Stephanie Lecocq/Reuters
Confidential briefings: Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney. Photo: Stephanie Lecocq/Reuters
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

The Government has drafted in crisis management experts to help with planning for the potential chaos caused by a no-deal Brexit.

Senior civil servants from across government departments involved in no-deal Brexit planning are now being told to finalise their plans for the worst-case scenario.

They are being told to undertake testing and scenario planning exercises to assess their level of preparedness to respond to delays that are likely to arise at Dublin Port and elsewhere in the immediate aftermath of October 31.

As part of this outside crisis management specialists have been facilitating some of these operations and simulations, ministers were confidentially informed by Tánaiste Simon Coveney last week.

There are particular concerns around Dublin Port where significant delays and traffic disruption are expected - with a knock-on impact on traffic outside the port - in the immediate period after Halloween, given the potential introduction of new checks and procedures.

Disruption is likely due to trucks arriving at the ports with incomplete or no documentation.

Officials are working on what is being described as "critical day one and week one risks" that could arise from a no-deal outcome.

This could all transpire in just 19 days' time, despite fresh optimism that a deal may yet be reached between the UK and the EU following talks between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Merseyside on Thursday.

Earlier this week the Irish Independent revealed details from a secret government memo which warned of "conflict at sea" and "blockades" in Irish waters in the immediate aftermath of a no-deal Brexit.

The loss of access to the UK fishing zones in a crash-out scenario could create a possible displacement of fleets of ships from other EU member states which normally use waters around the UK, and raises the potential for "conflict at sea and blockades", the confidential memo said.

Ministers were also informed that disruption at Dublin Port or on the "UK landbridge" - which is how much of Irish freight accesses mainland Europe and vice versa - could undermine public confidence in the security of food and medicine supplies in Ireland with the consequent risk of consumers panic-buying and existing stockpiles being depleted.

The Cabinet was also given details of other factors outside the Irish government's control.

These include possible decisions taken by UK and EU ports, ferry companies and protests by fishermen - all of which could also have a knock-on effect and result in delays at Irish ports.

The Departments of the Taoiseach and Foreign Affairs did not respond to queries on what crisis management specialists are being used, what specific work they are carrying out for the Government or how much they are being paid.

Irish Independent

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