Government 'not preparing' for land checks along border, Taoiseach says

Government 'not preparing' for land checks along border, Taoiseach says
Leo Varadkar outside Government Buildings. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has insisted there are no plans for checks along the land border in Ireland in the case of a no-deal Brexit, despite Transport Minister Shane Ross saying there would be.

On Tuesday night, Mr Ross said such checks were likely in the event of a disorderly Brexit on March 29 only to be contradicted by Tanaiste Simon Coveney.

Speaking at Government Buildings on Wednesday, Mr Varadkar said any checks would only be at airports and ports.

“The preparation for checks are being made at ports and airports. There are no preparations for checks along the land border,” he said.

“Our absolute priority is to get the deal ratified. Our focus is on avoiding a no deal scenario. Yes we are making preparations for a no deal scenario, we have to do that now. We are not preparing for checks along the border,” he added.

Mr Varadkar said there can be no movement on the Irish backstop or on the need to avoid a hard border, despite the historic defeat for Theresa May in Westminster,

Mr Varadkar restated the commitment made by both the Irish and British governments to avoid a hard border.

“We can’t shift on the issue of there being no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland,” Mr Varadkar said.

“That is the outcome that we need. We have said it from day one that Brexit cannot result in a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. We have made that commitment to the people of Ireland, north and south,” he said.

“And the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom Government has made that commitment to the people of Ireland, north and south, so it needs to be honoured.”

Mr Varadkar made it clear that the British parliament must now decide what type of post-Brexit relationship it wants with the EU.

What is required here is for Britain to essentially decide what kind of Brexit it wants.

Mr Varadkar also shot down the suggestion of a time limited backstop, saying such a suggestion fundamentally mistunderstands what the backstop is for.

He also said there is no support for such a proposal as reflected by one of the votes in the House of Commons.

“A guarantee with a time-limited is not a guarantee. What we are trying to achieve here is a guarantee that there be no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. There were two votes last night. One of the votes was on accepting the withdrawal agreement with a time-limited or deleted backstop and only 25 MPs voted for that,” he said.

Government 'not preparing' for land checks along border, Taoiseach says

Mr Varadkar said if the UK moved on its red lines of ruling out membership of the customs union and single market, the EU position would also evolve.

“We have also always said that the risk of an unplanned, disorderly Brexit at the end of March can be avoided, including if necessary by an extension of the Article 50 deadline. This would be subject to a request from the UK being made, and agreed by all Member States.”

He also said the Government “profoundly regrets the decision of the House of Commons to reject the withdrawal agreement between the EU and UK and the associated joint political declaration”.

He added: “It is not the outcome we wanted. Over the coming weeks, the Government will continue to work with our European partners in a collective effort to conclude an agreement with the UK. The deal provides a guarantee that a hard border will be avoided, and that citizens’ rights and freedoms will be protected.

“A No Deal scenario would have a deeply negative impact on jobs and the economy, particularly on agrifood and the traded sector - our farmers, our fishermen, our rural economy and our businessmen and women.

A No Deal scenario would not protect the Peace in Northern Ireland. We will work hard to avoid it.

Mr Varadkar said the Government’s plans for a no deal Brexit will continue.

“These are no longer contingency plans. They are being implemented by the Government. Now businesses and other organisations must do the same.

“For Government, this involves legislation including the omnibus Brexit bill, preparations at our ports and airports for customs and SPS checks, contingency plans to ensure medicine supplies are not interrupted, and further plans to support our exporters, businesses, employers, farmers and fishermen who may be affected severely.”

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