Tuesday 23 July 2019

Kevin Doyle: 'Keep Calm and Carry On message gets lost as Ross ventures off the Brexit script'


Transport Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Damien Eagers
Transport Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Damien Eagers
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Anybody who has ever done the tourist trail in London will be familiar with the posters, T-shirts, mugs and magnets carrying the slogan 'Keep Calm and Carry On'.

It was originally produced as a motivational poster by the British Ministry of Information in preparation for World War II. It was held in reserve as a way of raising public morale in the event of a particularly bad attack.

In essence, the message was British people should adopt a 'stiff upper lip' and defy the chaos around them.

Over the decades the phrase has become either timeless or clichéd - but in recent weeks it has been adopted by the Irish Government.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has repeatedly said now is a time for Ireland to hold its nerve. He has asked us to trust our EU partners not to abandon us at this late stage in the Brexit process.

The minister and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar have also appealed to Opposition TDs and voters to trust the Government when it comes to the no-deal preparations.

Trust is not something we often associate with politicians, but these are extraordinary times. And, in reality, we have little choice but to hope that they are on top of the crises.

That is why Transport Minister Shane Ross's performance at a briefing on contingencies last night is so worrying.

Mr Ross appeared to let it slip that customs checks on goods travelling from the UK to Ireland are inevitable in the event of a hard Brexit.

My colleague, Philip Ryan, presented him with something most politicians know to avoid: a hypothetical question.

The minister was asked if a truck left Scotland and travelled by boat to Larne in Northern Ireland, could it then move south as is currently the case without any checks.

"I would anticipate that there would be checks," Mr Ross said before being cut off by the Tánaiste.

Later, the Transport Minister was asked by the 'Financial Times' whether a motorist travelling from Co Donegal to Co Derry would continue to be insured once they crossed into the North.

"Can I come back to you on that?" Mr Ross responded, before whispering to Mr Coveney "the answer to that is 'yes', isn't it?"

"Probably, depending on where they get their insurance," the Tánaiste told him before explaining that such a scenario will be dealt with in emergency legislation being worked on by the Government.

Given how carefully Mr Coveney and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar have worked to control the Brexit narrative, they are likely to feel sore about the performance by their Independent colleague.

Further explanation will now have to be provided as to what exactly the Government's thinking is on a Border, be that in the Irish Sea, at UK ports or on the island of Ireland.

Elsewhere during the press briefing, Mr Coveney hit out at those who "wish things away" but can't provide "any kind of convincing explanation for how you avoid Border infrastructure without regulatory alignment".

No doubt, he wishes Mr Ross's contribution away.

Irish Independent

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