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Friday 18 October 2019

Fianna Fáil accuses Coveney of 'pathetic, Andrex Puppy' answers on Brexit planning

Tanaiste Simon Coveney Photo: Steve Humphreys
Tanaiste Simon Coveney Photo: Steve Humphreys
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

FIANNA Fáil has accused Tánaiste Simon Coveney of offering a "pathetic" response to questions raised about the government's contingency planning for Brexit.

The party's deputy leader Dara Calleary claimed answers to his queries in the Dáil were "Andrex Puppy" responses, describing them as "soft and fluffy".

Mr Coveney said he was surprised at Mr Calleary's remarks telling the Opposition politician it "shows you don't know what you're talking about".

Fianna Fáil has been putting pressure on the government to publish details of the government's plans for a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Calleary accused the government of delaying the publication of it's no-deal planning.

He asked when the government here will publish its plans "so that all of our citizens can buy into those plans, can understand the consequences of a no-deal Brexit in their daily lives".

Mr Calleary also asked if the government is concerned that delay releasing the plans would undermine their effectiveness "in preparing the country for or more importantly the people for what my lie ahead".

Mr Coveney insisted that there has been "a huge amount of work in preparation for all contingencies."

He also pointed to sectoral seminars being held by the European Commission including some on aviation and other forms of transport post-Brexit, Irish specific issues, and matters relating to tariffs and industrial goods including pharmaceuticals.

He said he wanted to reassure the public that this is part of the process of preparation, as well as domestic plans that are in place.

Mr Calleary heavily criticised Mr Coveney's answer an asked when the government will "wake up" and start engaging with the public on contingency planning.

He asked about the situation for planes flying across British airspace if there's a hard Brexit.

And he argued that sectoral seminars in Europe are not a lot of comfort.

Mr Coveney said the government has provided details of domestic preparations including the need for infrastructure in ports and airports.

He said that he himself has spoken to many people at the government's Getting Ireland Brexit Ready 'Brexpro' roadshow and added: "we didn't see many Fianna Fáil people there".

Mr Coveney said that the government will be publishing a document on Brexit contingency planning next week.

A spokesman for Mr Coveney claimed that the "righteous indignation from Fianna Fáil would have had more meaning to it if they knew what they were talking about."

He said that contingency plans to ensure airlines continue to fly in a no-deal scenario were published  a month ago and are an example of Mr Coveney's point about the collective strength of the EU.

Earlier Mr Coveney referred to the ongoing European Council summit in Brussels.

He told the Dáil there is a genuine effort by the EU to respond to the request of British Prime Minister Theresa May for more reassurance on the so-called backstop to avod a hard border in the event of a failure to reach a free trade deal with the UK in the future.

Mr Coveney said EU leaders are looking seriously at how a political declaration can be put together that "is real, that provides reassurance for many in Westminster who need it that the backstop represents no threat to them, no threat to the United Kingdom."

He said the backstop is "instead actually is about providing reassurance on the island of Ireland consistent with the obligations of both the British and Irish governments in the context of protecting the Good Friday Agreement."

He said it's a reassurance that "under no circumstances in the future as a result of Brexit will there be border infrastructure reemerging between the two jurisdictions on this island".

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