Coveney warns over no-deal Brexit risk

The danger of a no-deal Brexit is the highest it has been for more than two years, Simon Coveney has told his Cabinet colleagues. The Tánaiste also warned fellow ministers that a new British prime minister could adopt a different approach to Brexit.

As British prime minister Theresa May scrambles once more to persuade MPs to back a new initiative on the withdrawal agreement, Cabinet here discussed the Brexit impasse. Mr Coveney reiterated that the Government would not accept a reopening of the deal. However, it was agreed that Ireland must continue to prepare for a disorderly Brexit.

Government sources confirmed that Mr Coveney warned colleagues that “the danger of a no deal had not been greater than now over the last two and half years”.

The Tánaiste will also update the Cabinet next month on hiring extra officials at ports and custom points, as efforts continue to plan for Brexit.

The Cabinet heard that the Government is planning a fresh public awareness campaign over Brexit fears. This will include a new round of seminars and advertising around Brexit preparation.

It will include making businesses aware that they must register with Revenue to trade with British companies after Brexit.

In a statement, Mr Coveney said:

There is no grey space here. If a company trades with the UK after Brexit it will need its EORI [European Union Registration and Identification] number from Revenue.

“We are doing everything we can to avoid a no-deal Brexit but the impasse at Westminster means the possibility is still there for the UK to leave without a deal at the end of October.”

The Tánaiste also brought a memo to Cabinet on Ireland and Britain agreeing to continue to operate the Common Travel Area in the event of Brexit. Ministers also agreed that secondary legislation is needed in some areas, and work needs to be done on European Health Insurance Cards and the Erasmus education programme in the event of Brexit.

Meanwhile, in Britain, Ms May briefed her cabinet on a so-called bold new plan for a series of fresh votes in Westminster. At a business event in London, she outlined parts of the new approach to trying to get her withdrawal agreement approved by MPs.

Ms May said the deal sets out that her government will seek to conclude alternative arrangements to replace the controversial Irish backstop by December 2020, “so that it never needs to be used”.

Should it be used, she said, her government was committed to keeping Britain aligned with the North. MPs will have to approve the final treaties for Britain’s future relationship with the EU.

And Ms May said there would be “no change in the level of environmental protection when we leave the EU”.

She also pledged that the UK would seek “as close to frictionless trade in goods with the EU as possible” while outside the single market — while ending free movement. Britain would “keep up to date” with EU rules for goods and agri-food products that are relevant to checks at the border, she said.

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