Tánaiste: 'Border checks will be temporary if UK crashes out of EU'

Tánaiste: 'Border checks will be temporary if UK crashes out of EU'

Checks between Northern Ireland and Ireland will be "temporary" if Britain crashes out of the EU, the Tánaiste has said.

As he arrived at the Fine Gael think-in in Ballycotton, Co Cork, Simon Coveney said the Government will not "sugarcoat" the impact a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Coveney said he wasn't annoyed by the stark warnings around food supply and travel made by the Taoiseach recently as he said he was simply "telling people the truth".

"In the context of a no-deal, we will face some challenges and disruption and we need to prepare for that in terms of contingency. I think the most important thing that this government needs to do is we need to level with people in terms of what a no-deal Brexit actually means.

"We shouldn't be sugarcoating anything and what we have said is that in that scenario, we would be forced to protect Ireland's place in the EU's single market by having some checking system somewhere away from the border that can reassure the rest of the European Union that Ireland's place in the single market is protected and that the integrity of the market that we all enjoy will be protected too," he said.

Mr Coveney has insisted that customs and other checks would be "away" from the border, unlike Mr Varadkar who last week suggested they would "near" the border.

The Tánaiste said:

The one thing I'd say about that is that we don't regard those checks that may be needed in a no-deal scenario as a permanent arrangement. Not by a long shot.

"It is a temporary arrangement to protect our place in the single market, while we continue to negotiate for the kind of arrangement on the Irish border that the British government has committed to in the past in writing to Ireland," he said.

However, Fianna Fáil Brexit spokesperson Lisa Chambers hit out at Tánaiste's remarks on temporary inspections claiming it shows the Government is lurching towards border checks.

She said there are genuine concerns about the Government's "changing language" around the border issue, and that it is time Mr Coveney and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar "come clean" and are "level" with the public about what is planned.

"They have to level with the public on this. The Government's language has changed so much on this, it is changing even by the day.

Six months ago they wouldn't even talk about the border, they were petrified of doing so, and now they're saying there will be checks on goods near it but they're refusing to give details as talks are ongoing with the European Commission.

"If you have checks near the border you effectively create a buffer zone either side of it. We need to know the Government and European Commission's position," she said.

She said the British worst-case scenario Brexit concerns outlined in the published Yellowhammer document include a lack of jobs, food and medicine in Ireland's nearest neighbour, and that she hopes the findings will "shock" the British public into pushing back against the no-deal threat.

"What is being said in the Yellowhammer reports is absolutely harrowing. That should force a change in view, but the difficulty is so much information that is accurate and not is already out there, so the British public may find it difficult to know what's true and what's not," she said.

Mr Coveney could not reveal the length of an implementation period Ireland would be given by the EU Commission to have checks in place. However, he said there wouldn't be a sudden shock on November 1.

While the Tánaiste said he is "convinced" British prime minister Boris Johnson still wants a Brexit deal he said there are still significant gaps between both sides and it is “difficult not to be sceptical” about the British government’s intentions.

“There hasn’t been any substantive proposal from the British negotiating team to the Barnier task force. There certainly hasn’t been any proposal that comes close to doing that the backstop does," he said.

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