Hard Brexit would be a ‘monumental and political disaster’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking at Pairc Ui Caoimh.

The Taoiseach has said the Government is not making ‘on-the-ground’ preparations for a hard Brexit despite slow progress in EU-level talks with the British government.

Leo Varadkar said a hard Brexit outcome would be a “monumental and political disaster” but said he remains confident that won’t happen.

“Of course we have to prepare for all scenarios but preparing for all scenarios and doing desktop planning and ‘war-gaming’ is a far cry from what some people seem to be suggesting,” he said.

“Some people seem to be suggesting we should admit defeat already and start implementing the worst case scenario — looking for sites for truck stops and customs posts and training dogs and hiring border guards, that sort of thing.

“I can absolutely guarantee you that is not the kind of preparation we are doing or even contemplating, and when you start doing that kind of preparation there is a risk that it becomes a sort of self-fulfilling prophesy and that ain’t going to happen, I can guarantee you.”

He was speaking in Cork yesterday before chairing a Cabinet meeting with the morning session dominated by a Brexit update from Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney.

M Coveney said the Brexit talks have seen progress on issues linked to the common travel area but that further progress is required on three key Irish issues — the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, the border, and the relationship between the UK and Ireland.

The Cabinet meeting included input from each government department on their state of preparedness for Brexit which Mr Coveney said will have consequences which will “reach into every home in the country in a different way”.

However, he said while he is focusing on making sure that the worst-case scenario on Brexit doesn’t happen, the Government is preparing for various eventualities by broadening the state’s trading footprint, increasing Brexit funding for various government departments, and engaging with Irish businesses.

“There is a lot of happening but we do have to plan for worse-case scenario but we also have to make sure that doesn’t become a reality or at least make sure that we do everything within our power using the levers we control, to do that,” he said.

Mr Varadkar recalled how in the financial crisis the Government made plans in the event the euro collapsed.

“Thankfully that didn’t happen but the plan had to be there, of course it did but that is not what we are working towards,” he said.


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