Tuesday 26 March 2019

Ministers told St Patrick's Day trips may be cut short due to Brexit chaos

Concerns: Tánaiste and Foreign Minister Simon Coveney
Concerns: Tánaiste and Foreign Minister Simon Coveney

Cormac McQuinn and Philip Ryan

Ministers have been told that the annual St Patrick's Day diplomatic charm offensive may have to be cut short due to the massive uncertainty over Brexit. It comes as fears of the UK crashing out without a deal were ramped up by senior figures in Brussels.

Meanwhile, the Government here will seek to have a huge piece of emergency legislation passed in just three weeks.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney will today outline a raft of measures designed to protect everything from cross-Border train journeys to pensions payments between the UK and Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The Fine Gael-led minority Government hopes to have the 'omnibus bill' through all stages of the Oireachtas before St Patrick's Day, but will rely on Opposition co-operation to get it over the line.

The Irish Independent has learned ministers were told at Tuesday's Cabinet meeting that some St Patrick's Day trips may have to be cut short due to the uncertainty over Brexit. Sources said there are "no guarantees" about events in Westminster or Leinster House and that they may have to return home if issues arise in the Government's bid to pass the no-deal contingency legislation.

Other ministers said there is the prospect that emergency Cabinet meetings may be needed. One source stressed the importance of the St Patrick's Day visits for promoting Irish businesses abroad.

They said there would have to be "significant disruption" relating to Brexit for ministers to be asked to return home.

Mr Coveney will this morning publish the full details of the 'omnibus bill' which aims to protect Irish citizens, businesses and jobs from the impact of a no-deal Brexit.

It covers 15 areas across nine Government departments.

He told an Oireachtas committee yesterday that while he believes a Brexit deal can still be reached between London and Brussels, "we don't control all the levers here so we need to plan for that worst-case scenario just in case, and we are".

Separately, Fianna Fáil and the SDLP last night issued a joint statement urging pro-remain parties across Ireland to form an alliance.

In a thinly veiled swipe at Sinn Féin, whose seven MPs don't take their seats in the House of Commons, it also said: "It is simply not enough to oppose a no-deal Brexit - it must be voted down. All pro-remain parties have a duty, whether it be in the Assembly, the Dáil or in Westminster to make every vote count."

In his message to delegates at this weekend's Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis, party leader Micheál Martin claims despite being worst hit, Ireland will be the last country in Europe to have legislation for a no-deal Brexit in place. He explains why FF decided to extend the Confidence and Supply deal with Fine Gael, saying, "the Brexit threat to Ireland was too serious to put politics in suspension for months to allow time for a general election and to form a government. Ireland has to be put first."

Irish Independent

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