Taoiseach: Brexit extension 'can't be another licence for more indecision'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that an extension would be preferable to a crash-out Brexit but that "it can't be another licence for more indecision".

Mr Varadkar was responding to the news this morning that British Prime Minister Theresa May had written to the EU asking for a second delay to Brexit until June 30.

While the Taoiseach said he had not had the chance to look at the letter, he said the request for an extension came as "no surprise".

He said that the UK is facing a hard, cliff-edge Brexit next Friday and he believes that an extension is a preferable option to no-deal.

However, speaking on Clare FM's Morning Focus programme, he said he was "conscious that these rolling extensions are giving rise to uncertainty".

"People need to plan their lives, businesses need to make investment decisions, government needs to decide whether we have money to spend on important thing like rural broadband or whether we'll have to spend that money instead on protecting farmers and the beef industry from Brexit," he said.

"Every time there's an extension that delays decisions, but we'll certainly hear what [Theresa May] has to say next Wednesday. Obviously, we want to avoid no-deal for all the reasons I don't need to explain.

If there is a further request for an extension, we would want to know there is a clear plan, it can't be another licence for more indecision, sooner or later the United Kingdom needs to decide.

Despite this, the Taoiseach said that some of this frustration which may be shared by some of the other member states is unlikely to result in Mrs May's extension request being denied.

Irish businesses are also frustrated by the uncertainty and the ambiguity facing their operations should Britain crash out of the EU next Friday.

Revenue reported yesterday that more than half of businesses who are trading directly with the UK have not yet engaged with them

Mr Varadkar said the impact on every business would be different but that they needed to plan for the prospect of no-deal.

"I don't think anyone in Ireland doesn't know about Brexit, it's the biggest topic of conversation after the weather," he said, outlining that there is a large amount of information available for companies to plan ahead.

"We have plans, but the difficulty we have in a no-deal scenario is that there are lots of variables.

"It's unprecedented, and we don't know what approach the UK will take.

"We have some idea from what they've published, but the bottom line is that some businesses would face tariffs, probably all businesses would face delays in getting to market.

The effects will certainly be negative, if you look at what the Central Bank and what others say, while it would be negative on you look at the economy as a whole, it's not that we would go back into recession.

He said growth will still continue in terms of the economy, jobs and incomes, but not as fast as they would otherwise.

"We're not facing into a crisis like we had 10 years ago, but it wouldn't be good, and there would be particular sectors particularly badly affected," he said.

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