Minister rules out bilateral Brexit despite Irish ‘collateral damage’ warning

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has ruled out any chance of a bilateral Brexit deal between Ireland and Britain — despite a House of Lords report warning this country faces becoming the “collateral damage” of the UK’s break from Europe unless the drastic action is taken.

The minister downplayed the possibility of a joint agreement between both nations yesterday just hours after a 70-page review said Ireland’s agriculture, manufacturing, and SME sectors could bear the brunt of the financial fallout.

In an unusual step which underlines the wide risk posed by Brexit, House of Lords representatives yesterday travelled to Dublin to publish the first of six reports by its European affairs committee on the likely impact of Britain’s breakaway from the EU.

The 70-page document — which sought the views of former taoisigh John Bruton and Bertie Ahern, among others — acknowledged that the key issues remain between Britain and Europe.

However, in a clear warning to this country, it also said that series problems could occur in both Northern Ireland and the Republic unless a bilateral deal with Britain is reached in addition to any EU agreement.

According to the report, which can be read at www.publications.parliament.uk, should the potential negative effects of Brexit not be properly examined the peace process in the North could be damaged.

In addition, it said there is both a financial and social need for Ireland and Britain to retain the common travel area, to allow freedom of movement between both nations and to continue to ensure people in the North can hold Irish — and therefore EU — citizenship.

While stressing the issues may not be of as much importance to the EU as they are to Ireland and Britain, the report said if no bilateral deal is struck between both nations the Republic’s agriculture, manufacturing, and SME sectors could become the “collateral damage” of Brexit.

However, despite the concerns, speaking to reporters yesterday Finance Minister Michael Noonan said while the report includes “some interesting things” the fact remains that the EU will make any final decisions and that any formal bilateral deal will not happen.

“The legal negotiation has to be conducted by the European Union with the UK, and we will be part of the negotiating team, we have representation on it already.

“So that’s the official legal position. It’s not possible then to sort out whatever difficulties may emerge on the basis of a bilateral,” Mr Noonan, who said the Republic wants to continue talking with Britain as part of the EU, said.

At a separate European Movement Ireland event in Dublin yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny also downplayed the possibility of a bilateral deal, saying Ireland remains “very much part of the EU 27 team” when it comes to Brexit.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland yesterday, House of Lords European affairs committee chair Tim Boswell said a bilateral deal is needed instead of talks through the EU as “the UK and Irish governments are the people who understand the unique aspects of the border.”

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