We will do everything to ensure we are not dragged out of single market, says Tánaiste
Tánaiste Simon Coveney has warned Ireland will do everything necessary to ensure the country is not dragged out of the EU single market by a no-deal Brexit.
He described a no-deal Brexit as "madness" and said it represented "a lose, lose, lose" for Ireland, the EU and UK.
The warning came as Mr Coveney denied he had given any briefing to Cabinet or studied any written report which indicated Ireland would lose 10,000 jobs within the first three months of a no-deal Brexit with the UK crashing out of the EU.
However, the Cork TD said he believed the risk of a no-deal Brexit was now marginally less likely, given events over the past 48 hours in Westminster.
The Tánaiste said that, despite mounting speculation about a UK general election being confirmed next week, he still expects UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to travel to Dublin on Monday.
"I think sterling strengthened yesterday on the back of the reduced risk of a no-deal Brexit happening at the end of October but, of course, it could still happen and we have to plan for that and prepare for it," he said.
He said Ireland had to remain within the EU single market irrespective of Brexit.
"We need a dual objective here - we need to protect and maintain Ireland's place in the EU single market so that we don't get dragged out of the single market against our will as a result of Brexit.
"I think I have been levelling with people for a long time now - I have been making it very clear that we will do everything we can to avoid a no-deal Brexit.
"We will try to do everything we can to protect the all-island economy as it functions today.
"What I said is that we have a dual obligation here to protect the peace process and an all-island economy while at the same time protecting Ireland's place in the single market - I made that very clear.
"I also said there would need to be checks somewhere on the island in order to protect the integrity of the EU single market. We are trying to work that out given the complexity and sensitivity of this issue in the context of the Border."
The Tánaiste said this underlined why the so-called Irish backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement was absolutely vital. "This is why, by the way, the Irish Government's position is so supportive of the backstop as the way of resolving this issue through regulatory alignment," he said.
"We know that, despite what many people say about alternative arrangements, there aren't alternative arrangements that we have seen that do the same job as the backstop. They are significantly sub-optimal to the backstop, which is why it needs to be part of any deal that is done with the UK."
He said Border arrangements have not yet been finalised. "We do have some sense but we don't have detail on that because it is not agreed yet with the European Commission," he said. "As soon as we know, you will know. This is not just an Irish Border we are talking about, it is also an EU frontier with the UK."
He said that while sectors such as tourism, agri-food and fisheries were very vulnerable to the fall-out from a no-deal Brexit, he had not delivered any warning about 10,000 job losses in just three months.