EU 27 will not ‘sell us down the river’, says McEntee

Helen McEntee.

The Minister for European Affairs has dismissed the suggestion that other EU countries will “sell us down the river” in Brexit negotiations.

With talks on the border in deadlock, the possibility of a hard Brexit or no deal at all has increased, but Helen McEntee said the EU 27 will keep their promise to avoid a hard border at all costs.

It comes as Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) revealed that “significant planning” is underway to ensure that medicines and supplies will be available if the UK leaves the EU without a trade deal.

NHS chief Simon Stevens said: “There’s extensive work underway now between the department of health, other parts of government, the life sciences industry, the pharma companies. Nobody is pretending this is a desirable situation, but if that’s what we get to, then it will not have been unforeseen.”

The Government has also admitted it is developing comprehensive contingency plans in preparation for the possibility of Britain crashing out of the EU, though they claim they are not contemplating a hard border on the island of Ireland.

With little development on the exit deal, British prime minister Theresa May is to hold a special Cabinet meeting later this week in a bid to unify members of her government and come to agreement ahead of the expected release of a formal policy proposal next week.

Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney is also due to travel to Britain this week, as the October deadline to resolve the border aspect of Brexit looms after no solution was agreed before last week’s EU summit.

Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny is among those who have called for an extra EU Council meeting, as Brexit negotiations enter a critical period, but Ms McEntee yesterday ruled this out.

“What we need to see now is a following on from the summit [last week] and absolutely we are disappointed that we didn’t have sufficient progress,” said Ms McEntee.

“The deadline is October, so I don’t see why we would have another summit.

“If you start putting deadlines within deadlines, then you are likely to fail.

Instead of having summits, there needs to be discussions and negotiations. If you are having a summit, then you are taking away from the taskforce and the UK coming together and trying to find a solution to this.

However, Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan said the deadline for signing off on a post-Brexit border solution was initially set for June.

“We were told back in December by the Government that we had cast-iron guarantees that were bullet-proof,” said Mr O’Callaghan.

“The crucial thing that we need... is a guarantee that ensures that there won’t be a hard border on the island of Ireland, if it is the case that an agreement can’t be reached between the United Kingdom and the EU after the transition period.

The Government is partly to blame for this, but, primary, blame must rest upon the British government, who still have not indicated what their position is in respect of this matter. We need to start preparing for a hard Brexit.

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