Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has admitted Ireland is stockpiling vital drugs and making “contingency plans” to ensure access to medicines in case of a “doomsday” no-deal hard Brexit.
Mr Varadkar confirmed the safety net plan as an ex-head of the World Trade Organization said a ‘worst hit’ Ireland will need emergency EU funding if a hard Brexit happens.
Separately, minister of state Finian McGrath broke ranks yesterday to insist the British public must be allowed to vote in a second referendum on any Brexit deal.
Mr Varadkar’s disclosure came after British prime minister Theresa May last week confirmed that her government is stockpiling food and drugs in case negotiations with the EU fail.
The Taoiseach said Ireland will have no issue in accessing food supplies.
However, he admitted for the first time that Ireland is adopting a similar medicines plan due to the risk that we will be unable to easily access drugs from Britain due to new “restrictions” and changed “supply chains”.
“There is potentially a concern around medicines, because a lot of our supply chains go through the United Kingdom, and you know some companies see the UK and Ireland as a single market,” said Mr Varadkar.
Everything down to the packaging, and the English language information that comes with your box of tablets, is done on a UK-Ireland wide basis. And the other thing, as well, is some companies might see Ireland’s market as just too small on its own.
"So that is a concern that we have and it’s one that we are developing contingency plans on.
“So part of our contingency planning does involve making sure that we have a supply of medicines.”
Mr Varadkar, who earlier this month described a no- deal Brexit as “doomsday”, admitted the plan to stockpile medicines as ex-World Trade Organization director-general Pascal Lamy warned that Ireland will need emergency financial aid if no Brexit deal is struck.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s This Week programme, 10 weeks from the October withdrawal deal deadline, Mr Lamy said “we all know exit with no trade deal is the most costly version” and Ireland will be “first in line” for any financial support.
Urging this country to “prepare for the worst”, Mr Lamy said: “Yes, Ireland would be the worst hit both in quantity and proportion and then there should be some sort of EU solidarity.”
He added that it is “pie in the sky” to claim there will be no hard border if there is no Brexit deal, saying no example exists in the world where areas with no trade deal have an open border.
Meanwhile, speaking to the, Disabilities Minister and Independent Alliance TD Finian McGrath said he “would be very much in favour” of a public vote in Britain on any Brexit deal instead of the agreement simply being decided by Westminster.
Noting a growing campaign for the move in Britain and a YouGov poll last week showing a slim support for the plan, Mr McGrath said: “People want to have a second vote on any deal.”
Mr McGrath’s position is at odds with Mr Varadkar, who said Ireland calling for a new vote would be greeted in Britain, in the same way any suggestion by British PM Ms May that Ireland should consider leaving the EU would be greeted here.
In further weekend Brexit developments, the UUP has lashed ex-DUP leader and former Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson for suggesting the province needs to prepare for the possibility of a Brexit-created united Ireland.
Ms May has separately been warned by her local Conversatives branch chairperson not to make any further Brexit concessions, while Italy’s far-right deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, told her not to back down on Brexit as the EU will “swindle you”.