Tánaiste says Government are 'planning for the worst' Brexit at opening of €10m Clonakilty Distillery

Tánaiste says Government are 'planning for the worst' Brexit at opening of €10m Clonakilty Distillery

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said all parties are "inching towards" a Brexit deal but warned "there are a few ups and downs in these negotiations yet" as the March 29 deadline moves into view.

Speaking at the official opening of the new €10m Clonakilty Distillery in West Cork, Mr Coveney sought to reassure businesses that the government was "working night and day" to prevent a scenario where the United Kingdom crashes out of the EU.

However, he said contingencies were also being developed in case that came to pass.

The Tánaiste had just completed a public speech which, he said, was the first he had made in a month that didn't mention Brexit. But while he joked that whiskey might be a requirement as negotiations continue, he said: "We are getting there slowly.

"I can reassure you we are planning for the worst just in case it happens, but we are working night and day to make sure that it doesn't," he said.

The Tánaiste said a deal that would be endorsed by the UK and acceptable to the EU was the goal and "we are inching towards that". He had earlier been asked what supports might be immediately available in a 'no deal' scenario and admitted it was too early to know.

It's difficult to determine what funds will be needed until we get a clearer picture of what a no-deal Brexit could look like and what I mean by that is it's very hard to know at the moment whether there would be tariff, non-tariff, or both, barriers to trade.

"The British government has not made up its mind in relation to tariffs in the context of a no deal. But of course we all need to work to make sure we avoid that kind of dramatic situation where Britain could crash out without any deal."

Brexit loomed in the background even as the country's latest distillery was opened, the new facility right in the centre of Clonakilty employing 35 people and with plans to attract 35,000 visitors annually.

Clonakilty Distillery CEO, Michael Scully, said the plans focused on high spending tourists and the domestic market. The new distillery includes a visitor experience, a gin school, the Whale’s Tail Bistro, and a warehouse on the Wild Atlantic Way on the Galley Head peninsula.

"While we would love to have English visitors there are other whiskey visitors, from Germany, France and the USA and its very important to attract them, and local Irish tourists, to our business," Mr Scully said.

The launch was attended by Minister with responsibility for Mental Health, Jim Daly, and local TDs Michael Collins and Margaret Murphy O'Mahony.

Mr Coveney said the Irish whiskey industry had experienced "a renaissance" over the past eight years, resulting in €650m a year in experts to become the fastest growing spirits category in the world. He said the new distillery would be a "strong tourism driver" for the area, adding: "A lot of people talk about the demise of rural Ireland; I am not seeing it in West Cork."

The Tánaiste also reiterated his support for a directly elected Lord Mayor for Cork City ahead of a plebiscite on the issue later this year, adding: "I think directly elected mayors have worked really well in other dynamic cities across the EU and I think the same can take place in Cork."

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