Sunday 22 September 2019

Varadkar says there will be a 'grace period' for no-deal Brexit changes to cross-border trade

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: PA
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: PA
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

THERE will be a “grace period” for any changes made to customs checks and controls in a crash-out Brexit, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

The government has come under pressure to outline plans for a no-deal Brexit and last night Mr Varadkar said there will have to be checks near the border with Northern Ireland.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin today warned that the government must be “absolutely honest” and “up front” about plans for customs checks.

During a visit to Waterford Mr Varadkar was asked how famers will manage the cross-border milk trade.

He said: “That is one of the things that is yet to be sorted out in detail.

“And I appreciate that that is an issue of real concern for people, particularly those who operate agri-food on and along the border and that has yet to be worked out”.

He said he appreciates that it’s causing “worry and confusion” and added: “as soon as we have clarified those arrangements with the European Commission we will inform the public and business.

“What I can say is there won’t be any sudden decisions that people are expected to implement within a few days.

“There will be a lead-in time and a grace period and a phase-in time for any changes.”

Mr Varadkar is set to meet British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday.

He said he doesn’t expect any breakthroughs but it’s an opportunity to establish a personal relationship, explore where there might be common ground, and discuss the institutions in the North.

It was put to him that Mr Johnson may not be prime minister by the end of October and he was asked about the impact of the political turmoil in Britain on the Brexit process.

Mr Varadkar said it’s hard to quantify and that Brexit is “very much a problem created in the UK”.

He said the government has done its best to work with three prime ministers and added: “whoever is the British Prime minister we’ll try and work with them too.”

He said: “One thing I am very conscious of is that prime Minister [Theresa] May with a parliamentary majority was unable to get a deal ratified.

“Prime minister Johnson does not even have a parliamentary majority and that gives us cause for concern as to whether it’s possible for this parliament to ratify any agreement.”

The Taoiseach was asked when the public will be told where the checks near the border will be and he replied: “You’ll find out as soon as I know, discussions with the European Commission are ongoing”.

He said the objective is “to avoid No-Deal” and he believes this can still happen.

“But if No-Deal happens, we are determined to make sure that Ireland doesn’t get dragged out of the Single Market,” he added.

He said this necessitates checks and “the vast majority of them will happen away from the border”.

“Some may happen near the border, that hasn’t really been worked out yet in detail with the Commission.

“We are working that out, but one thing I can assure business is they are not going to wake up one morning to a big surprise.”

He responded to criticism from Mr Martin’s that the government has yet to reveal the full details of its emergency planning.

He said: “I don’t think that’s accurate commentary, for the past two years every month or two we have been producing information about what No-Deal would mean”.

“Tariff schedules were published I think nearly two years ago,” he added and he also pointed to reports on the impact on jobs and the public finances.

Mr Varadkar said he doesn’t believe there’s an increasing possibility of an election here and he still wants it to take place in summer 2020.

He also took a swipe at Mr Martin who he said refused to agree to that date and that the election should be linked to Brexit.

“I’ve never thought that we should link the longevity and survival of an Irish government or an Irish parliament based on events in another country,” Mr Varadkar said.

Online Editors

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