Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has warned that Ireland must move into a “new phase of preparedness” for all potential Brexit outcomes amid fears a no-deal situation could cost this country hundreds of millions of euro and see unemployment levels surge.
Speaking before a special Cabinet meeting in south west Kerry on Wednesday, which is expected to see talks focus on hard Brexit contingency plans, Mr Donohoe said it was inevitable that the Government is preparing for all options.
In a high-stakes move yesterday, British prime minister Theresa May told hardline Brexiteers in her own party to either back her soft Brexit blueprint or face the growing prospect of Britain crashing out of the EU with no deal.
And while the claim is likely to be questioned by former Brexit secretary David Davis, former British foreign secretary Boris Johnson, and hardline pro-Brexit MP Jacob Rees-Mogg in key Brexit debates in Westminster this week, speaking on RTÉ’s This Week programme, Mr Donohoe further underlined the no-deal fear.
Asked about Wednesday’s upcoming special cabinet meeting in Derrynane, south west Kerry, Mr Donohoe confirmed widely leaked suggestions the Government will discuss a series of contingency options for all potential Brexit outcomes.
While insisting this does not mean the Government is losing faith in the likelihood of a deal being struck between the EU and Britain before the October deadline, the finance minister said every eventuality now needs to be considered.
“We are looking for the best deal possible,” said Mr Donohoe.
“Despite the publication of the white paper [Ms May’s soft Brexit plan], there is a view the future trading relationship is unresolved.”
Mr Donohoe that, because of the situation, Ireland is moving into “a new stage of preparedness” and noted “models” already examined by the Government show a no-deal Brexit could force a 2% rise in Irish unemployment levels.
The meeting on Wednesday is expected to hear Tánaiste Simon Coveney warn that Brexit could cost the State hundreds of millions of euro and that regardless of the outcome hundreds of new customs union officials will be needed.
Mr Coveney is also likely to ask ministerial colleagues for approval to potential bring 200,000 tonnes of Irish oil reserves held in Britain back to Ireland amid fears of a no deal situation.
Meanwhile, Ms May has appealed to warring Conservative MPs to back her blueprint for Brexit, devised at an emergency meeting in chequers a week ago, and avoid a disorderly withdrawal from the EU, which would damage Britain’s interests.
Ahead of a crucial week in Westminster, Ms May said that, despite criticism, her plan offered a “hard-headed and practical” way forward.
“We could go for no deal, no deal is still there, it is still possible, but I think the best thing for the UK is to have deal that sets a good relationship with our trading partners in the future,” she told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show.
Her resolve is likely to be tested in the coming days Mr Johnson holds a parliamentary resignation speech and as the latest round of crucial Brexit votes occur in Westminster.
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