Saturday 23 March 2019

Ministers on alert for the 'major decisions' that now loom amid Brexit chaos

Decisions will be judged in 30 years, says Leo Varadkar. Picture: Colin O'Riordan
Decisions will be judged in 30 years, says Leo Varadkar. Picture: Colin O'Riordan
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Major decisions aimed at saving Irish industries will have to be made within days if a breakthrough on Brexit is not achieved, the Irish Independent has learned.

Ministers have been warned to keep their diaries "light" for the early part of March in anticipation of a series of emergency Cabinet meetings.

The plan being put in place by the country's top civil servant is on a scale not seen since the economic crash.

"Effectively 'no-deal Brexit' starts in the first week of March," a source said.

The Cabinet is to meet on March 4, 5 and 8 to make "big decisions" on which industries should get financial aid from the State.

It is understood the agriculture and aviation sectors were cited as examples of the industries most at risk, while ministers will also have to consider the impact of a hard Brexit on the financial markets.

All State agencies will also be summoned to Government Buildings in this period to work on a public communications strategy.

And ministers will have to decide how to approach the question of a Border with Northern Ireland after Brexit Day.

"It's the sort of stuff that would keep you awake at night," said a source.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is understood to have told colleagues they will be making decisions that will be judged in 30 years rather than 30 days.

A number of ministers who spoke to the Irish Independent last night said they were surprised at the starkness of the situation.

"The whole thing could fall into disarray. We don't know where this is going to end," said one source.

Another said politicians, businesses and the public need "to stop assuming that somebody is going to blink".

"It reminds me of a football match where you're expecting Man United to get a goal against some fourth division team every minute and then all of a sudden the match is over," a source said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May will be back in Brussels today to meet with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Expectations are low after Mr Juncker said: "There is not enough movement for me to be able to assume that it will be a productive discussion."

In a speech in Berlin, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt stressed that the blame for failure to reach a deal would not be borne solely by the UK, but by all those involved in the negotiations between Britain and the remaining 27 EU states.

Irish Independent

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