Taoiseach: Turmoil in the British government is 'no cause for panic' in Ireland

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that while turmoil has engulfed Theresa May's Government in London, it is not “cause for panic.”

Mr Varadkar, speaking in Dublin, said the Irish Government is now making preparations at Irish ports and airports in case Britain crashes out of the EU next March.

He said he is not sure if the Tory Government could get any withdrawal agreement through the House of Commons, based on current numbers.

“But I do think given the instability in Britain, given the turmoil in Westminster we can't make an assumption the withdrawal agreement will get through Westminster. It is not evident or not obvious that the government in Britain has a majority for any form of Brexit quite frankly,” he said.

Responding to questions from the Irish Examiner, Mr Varadkar said:

“But I do think given the instability in Britain, given the turmoil in Westminster we can't make an assumption the withdrawal agreement will get through Westminster. It is not evident or not obvious that the government in Britain has a majority for any form of Brexit quite frankly.”

“So for those reasons to be on the safe side, we as a government need to step up our preparations for a no deal scenario. It is not that we expect that but it is prudent that we should step up those preparations,” he said.

“I think it is evident to everyone that there is a lot of political instability in London. That there is turmoil at Westminster and I think we are going to see more, many more twists and turns in the weeks and months ahead,” the Taoiseach said.

But, he said, the turmoil in London “shouldn't give us cause for panic, and certainly shouldn't give us any reason to change our position”.

“And our position is as it has been for two years. We want to maintain the CTA, avoid a hard border between north and south and avoid any disruption to trade between the UK and Ireland,” he said.

“The votes that have taken place will obviously have to go on to the House of Lords but the one thing we all know is that when it comes to the withdrawal agreement, I think we can come to a withdrawal agreement in October, that also has to be approved by Westminster and the European Parliament,” the Taoiseach said.

The vote on the withdrawal agreement in Westminster will supercede any of the votes that are happening now, he insisted.

“The next step now is to prepare our ports and airports, through hiring customs inspectors and veterinary inspectors. I am very confident we can still come to a withdrawal agreement including a backstop arrangement in October, but it is prudent for any government to prepare for the worst and we do have to do that,” he said.

Does that include preparing for a hard border, he was asked.

In response he was firm: “Well we are not preparing [for a hard border]. The position here in Ireland, with the Government in Dublin, in London and in Brussels is that there won't be a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Nobody wants that.”

“That is the position we are holding to. In saying that, we do have to make preparations in the ports and airports. We obviously we want to be able to negotiate a withdrawal agreement which keeps trading relationships as much as they are now. We have to prepare for the possibility that that won't happen,” he said.


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