Sunday 22 September 2019

Westminster turmoil 'disheartening' and increases risk of no-deal Brexit - minister

Businesses told to 'prepare for the worst'

Minister for Business Heather Humphreys and Communications Minister Richard Bruton speaking outside Dublin Castle on Thursday. Photo: Cate McCurry/PA Wire
Minister for Business Heather Humphreys and Communications Minister Richard Bruton speaking outside Dublin Castle on Thursday. Photo: Cate McCurry/PA Wire
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

THE renewed turmoil in Westminster is "disheartening" and makes the risk of a no-deal Brexit more likely, Communications Minister Richard Bruton has said.

His remarks come amid a political crisis in Britain where they has been outrage over Prime Minister Boris Johnson's move to suspend parliament for more than a month as the October 31 Brexit deadline looms.

Mr Bruton said: "We are not going to get involved in British politics because they have a lot of decisions to make.

"Undoubtedly the decisions that they make will have a big impact on us and we need to give them the time and space to do that."

But asked if the latest developments make a no-deal crash-out more likely he said: "it is very difficult to see the political hyping of the issues and the clock ticking away and a lot of political positioning rather than working on the details of how resolutions can be found.

"I think that’s disheartening and it does make the risks greater. That’s undoubtedly the case."

Business Minister Heather Humphreys was challenged by reporters on the Irish government's efforts to prepare people for the prospect of a no-deal Brexit and it was put to her that it's "about time" the government revealed its plans.

She said: "we have been telling businesses to prepare for a hard Brexit for the worst possible scenario."

Ms Humphreys outlined how the government has said there will be no checks on the border with Northern Ireland but there will have to be checks elsewhere to protect the EU Single Market and Customs Union.

The government has been in talks with the European Commission on the possibility that such checks could take place at factories, farms and ports rather than at border posts.

Ms Humphreys said negotiations are continuing with the EU "to find the best possible solution for Ireland".

She claimed: "Businesses know exactly what is needed of them" and outlined supports available through State agencies like the network of Local Enterprise Offices and Enterprise Ireland as well as loan schemes aimed at helping them to prepare for Brexit.

She added: "I have just met with businesses recently in conjunction with the accountancy bodies to help them to identify what they need to do in terms of a no-deal Brexit.

"There will have to be some checks.

"Tariffs can be paid online but in terms of SPS [checks on the agri-sector] there will be checks at some stage.

"We’re talking to the European Commission. We’re trying to find solutions. This is not easy."

She added that businesses are being told to prepare for the worst "while we continue to work to get the best possible outcome for this country".

Ms Humphreys insisted the government will continue to insist on the need for the backstop to avoid a hard border - which Mr Johnson wants scrapped - in any Brexit agreement.

"There will be no movement on the backstop. The backstop is our insurance policy and it will remain, "she said.

She also said: "There is nothing good in Brexit for us.

"But the Withdrawal Agreement is the best possible outcome and Boris Johnson has said that he has alternatives.

"We’re waiting to hear what those alternatives are. We need meat on the bones. But the ball is firmly in his court."

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