Government denies it is being secretive over no-deal Brexit planning

Update 5.09pm: The Taoiseach has rejected accusations from the opposition that the Government is being secretive about its no-deal Brexit planning.

Leo Varadkar also said he believed a no deal was still unlikely, despite the Government pushing ahead with its contingency planning in the event of the UK crashing out of the EU without agreeing a deal.

Government denies it is being secretive over no-deal Brexit planning

Mr Varadkar made the comments in the Dáil on Tuesday afternoon ahead of the vote on Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement in the UK parliament on Tuesday evening.

I still believe a no deal is unlikely but I think we have to be prepared for it, or at least prepared as any country possibly can be.

He was responding to criticism by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

Mr Martin said: “The Government has treated the Dáil and the public shabbily and badly when it comes to sharing its plans in the event of a no-deal Brexit. I think you should treat the Oireachtas and the public with greater respect.”

He added: “What is the big secret? What is behind the reluctance to share basic information with people in terms of a no-deal Brexit?”

Mr Varadkar replied: “I really don’t accept the deputy’s charge.”

He said the opposition was due to the briefed on Tuesday afternoon to update parliamentarians on the government’s plans.

Four memos relating to a no-deal scenario were debated by Irish ministers at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning. They related to the common travel area, medicines, transport and potential Brexit legislation.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

An “omnibus big Brexit bill” containing 17 separate draft laws is being prepared so they can be rushed through the Irish parliament if needed. These draft laws were approved by ministers during the meeting.

Mr Varadkar said: “I still believe a no deal is unlikely but I think we have to be prepared for it, or at least prepared as any country possibly can be.”

He reiterated that the Withdrawal Agreement was the only alternative to leaving without a deal.

“The Withdrawal Agreement is the only agreement on the table and it’s an agreement that has been supported by 28 governments including that of the UK,” he said.

“Of course we’ll allow the democratic process to take its course in Westminster. They’ll vote on the Withdrawal Agreement and four amendments and we’ll review the position tomorrow in consultation with our EU colleagues.”

- Press Association

Taoiseach accused of treating public 'shoddily' by not fully disclosing Government's Brexit plans

By Elaine Loughlin, Political Correspondent

Update 2.55pm: The Taoiseach has been accused of treating the public "shoddily and badly" by not fully disclosing the Government's Brexit plans.

Leo Varadkar was pressed on Brexit preparedness, the upcoming nurses strike, the cost of the new National Children's Hospital and homelessness, after the Dáil returned from its Christmas break on Tuesday afternoon.

Government denies it is being secretive over no-deal Brexit planning

Under questioning from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, Mr Varadkar confirmed that the Government have agreed that all emergency Brexit legislation would be tabled in one omnibus Bill containing 17 different parts.

Mr Varadkar said that Cabinet had discussed four significant memos this morning - one based on the Common Travel Area, a second around medications and supply, the third on transport and the final one on emergency legislation that will be required if Britain crashes out of the EU in March.

Mr Martin told the Dáil that Brexit "continues to cast a cloud" over this country, the UK and the entire European Union. He said this evening's vote in the House of Commons is the "latest instalment in a lengthy saga".

Mr Martin said the Government "has treated the Dáil and the public shoddily and badly" when it has come to sharing information on the contingency plans being worked on to deal with a no-deal Brexit.

He hit out at the Government for publishing their contingency plan document on December 19, right before the Dáil rose for Christmas.

"The document itself is a light document, lacking in details," said Mr Martin.

Responding Mr Varadkar said the Government was unable to publish its contingencies before the EU Commission released their documents.

Cabinet meeting to discuss plans in event of no deal Brexit

Cabinet Ministers are signing off on plans for a no deal Brexit ahead of a crucial vote in the House of Commons tonight.

The withdrawal agreement is likely to be heavily defeated by MPs and a vote of no confidence in the British government may follow.

Government denies it is being secretive over no-deal Brexit planning

The Cabinet is considering an omnibus bill to bring all the legislation needed to prepare to the Dáil in one go.

They are also discussing how to avoid a shortage of medicines if the UK crashes out and how to limit the impact on transport.

Opposition parties have said more needs to be done to make Ireland Brexit ready.

Fianna Fáil's Finance Spokesman Michael McGrath said: "If as all the indications point to a heavy defeat for Theresa May in today's vote then the preparations for all scenarios, including a No-Deal Brexit will have to be stepped up."

The party's Brexit spokesperson Lisa Chambers said it is still not clear what will happen if the vote is lost.

"Amidst all the chaos we here in Ireland are still moving quite dangerously close to the cliff edge, not of our own making, but still a very difficult and precarious position for us to be in.

"We know what's going to happen today, I think the vote will be defeated, but after that, what is the next step that the British prime minister will take and where does the deal lie at that point?

"What is going to happen on March 29."

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said some hardline Brexiteers have been using the issue for political gain.

"There are many in Britain in the British political establishment who have played a game of chicken with Ireland and with Irish interests.

"That is a disreputable way to carry out your politics, to say the very least."

'I don't think she even asked to get rid of the backstop': Arlene Foster lays accusation at Theresa May's feet

DUP leader Arlene Foster accused Theresa May of not trying to get rid of the Northern Ireland backstop in recent discussions with Brussels.

Mrs Foster spoke at a Brexiteer event in London which was also attended by former Brexit secretaries Dominic Raab and David Davis.

Mrs Foster told the audience she had deja vu having come to London to argue against the Withdrawal Agreement before the Meaningful Vote was pulled in December.

"We said to the Prime Minister she had to get rid of the backstop and get a Withdrawal Agreement that can be lived with," Mrs Foster said on Tuesday.

"I don't think she even asked to get rid of the backstop."

Government denies it is being secretive over no-deal Brexit planning

Mrs Foster suggested that losing the Meaningful Vote would "strengthen" Mrs May.

The DUP leader said: "She will be able to go back to the European Union and tell them than she has taken the mood of Parliament, Parliament has rejected the Withdrawal Agreement as it currently stands and therefore there will have to be more negotiations."

Asked how long the DUP confidence-and-supply deal with the Government might last, she added: "We still want to support the Government to bring stability to the UK, we still want a Brexit that works for the whole of the United Kingdom ... that still remains the case.

"What we want the Prime Minister to do is get a deal that works for the whole of the United Kingdom and, frankly, Europe as well. The current deal does not do that."

DUP 'unable' to support May's deal because of 'toxic' Irish backstop

Earlier: Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster branded the Irish border backstop "toxic" and said her party's 10 MPs would vote against the Withdrawal Agreement.

Mrs Foster said on Twitter: "Tonight will be historic but for the wrong reasons. We will oppose the toxic backstop & vote against the WA.

"It's time for a sensible deal which governs our exit from the EU & supports all parts of the UK."

The DUP's Westminster leader Nigel Dodds says he still cannot support the withdrawal agreement.

He said: "It doesn't deliver our view and it doesn't safeguard the Union because of the problems with the so-called Irish backstop.

"As things stand we couldn't support Theresa May's deal and I think therefore it will be defeated."

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