Sunday 24 March 2019

Coveney warns no-deal Brexit is a 'lose, lose, lose' scenario as Government publishes emergency legislation

Tanaiste hopes it will 'sit on the shelf'

Tanaiste Simon Coveney (right) and Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee at a press conference at Government Buildings in Dublin. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Tanaiste Simon Coveney (right) and Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee at a press conference at Government Buildings in Dublin. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Cormac McQuinn Political Correspondent

EMERGENCY legislation designed to protect cross-border health services, benefits payments and transport links in the event of a crash-out Brexit has been published by the government this morning.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the omnibus bill is the result of an enormous amount of work to "prepare our country for the worst kind of Brexit".

The government hope to have it passed in the next three weeks so that it's in place before Britain is due to leave the EU at the end of March.

There are still hopes that the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement between British Prime Minister Theresa May's government and the EU will be passed by the House of Commons.

Mr Coveney said he hopes the legislation published today "proves redundant" and he hopes its provisions are never needed.

He said: "My only desire is to see this legislation sit on the shelf."

Measures included in the Bill are:

*A provision for cross-border health services including reimbursement arrangements to be maintained

*Giving Enterprise Ireland extra powers to support business through investment, loans and grants

*Protection of the Single Electricity Market

*The continuance of student grant arrangements between the Ireland and the UK

*Modification of income tax, capital tax, corporation tax and stamp duty to ensure continuity for businesses and citizens

*The continuance of benefits payments between both jurisdictions

*Protection of cross-border bus services.

Mr Coveney said that a no-deal Brexit would be a "lose, lose, lose" situation for Ireland, Britain and the EU.

In relation to the new legislation he said: "We cannot offset all of the damage that it will do but we are doing everything we can".

Mr Coveney also said: "I don't believe a no-deal will happen but we have to plan for it just in case."

He acknowledged that the annual St Patrick's Day international promotional blitz by ministers - including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's visit to the White House - could be hit if issues relating to Brexit arise while they are scattered around the world.

The Irish Independent revealed today that ministers have been put on notice to cut their trips short if they need to return home to attend a special Cabinet meeting or help the legislation get over the line in Leinster House.

Mr Coveney said he believed it was "unlikely" that Mr Varadkar's meeting with US President Donald Trump would be affected but couldn't rule it out.

He said: "you can't rule anything out with Brexit".

In a statement today in response to the bill, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "Our focus remains on the UK ratifying the Withdrawal Agreement...

"We are doing all we can to avoid a no-deal scenario, but we need to be ready in case it does happen".

"This special law enables us to mitigate against some of the worst effects of no-deal by protecting citizens' rights, security, and facilitating extra supports for vulnerable businesses and employers."

The EU Commission's move on state aid rules governing the agriculture sector will enable the Government to increase the maximum amount it can use to support farmers without prior Commission approval.

On Friday, the Commission also approved a specific Irish state aid application which will allow a Co Cork cheese company to receive state aid funding to diversify its business away from reliance on the UK market.

Carbery Food Ingredients Ltd, which works with 1,260 farmers, currently produces Cheddar cheese, principally for British consumers.

The €5.75m state aid boost will support the company as it shifts to the production of Mozzarella cheese with the aim of finding new buyers.

The Government's Omnibus Bill, known as the Miscellaneous Provisions (Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on 29 March 2019) Bill, is made up of 15 parts and was prepared by nine ministers.

The proposed laws cover a wide range of areas and focuses on protecting Irish citizens' rights, supporting businesses and jobs, healthcare, transport, education and energy.

The Bill will be debated in the Dail next week and then in committees the following week, before being debated in the upper chamber, the Seanad.

President Michael D Higgins will sign it into law if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section