Business Minister Heather Humphreys has told Irish firms to “prepare for the worst” Brexit outcome, admitting: “We don’t know what’s going to happen on October 31.”
Ms Humphreys separately confirmed that talks are ongoing between Ireland and the European Commission about “some checks” on goods crossing the border.
Speaking after Retail Ireland confirmed that Ireland may have to stockpile everyday UK goods such as Fairy Liquid, HB Ice-cream, and Lucozade in a no-deal Brexit, Ms Humphreys said the Brexit standoff is becoming a “challenge”.
And, despite attempting to assure the public that the crisis can be averted, she said that while the Government is trying to find “the best possible outcome”, it is time for businesses to “prepare for the worst”.
”We have to prepare businesses for a no-deal Brexit and that is what we’re doing,” Ms Humphreys told RTÉ Radio’s This Week programme. “We don’t know what’s going to happen on October 31, but what I’ll be saying to businesses is, ‘you prepare for the worst, while we continue to negotiate for the best possible outcome.’ And the worst outcome is a no-deal Brexit.”
Asked about the risk of a hard border returning between the Republic and the North in just nine weeks’ time, Ms Humphreys said the Government was trying to avoid the situation. However, she admitted the situation is a “challenge” and that the European Commission and Ireland are locked in talks about potential checks on goods coming across the border in a no-deal Brexit scenario.
“While we don’t want a hard border, there will have to be some checks, obviously, because we’ll need to be sure that substandard goods don’t come into this country. It is difficult, there’s no point in not saying it,” she said.
Asked to respond to ex-European affairs minister Lucinda Creighton’s claim that Ireland should drop the backstop, as it could cause a no-deal Brexit, Ms Humphreys said it “has to” remain, as it is crucial to “protecting Irish interests”.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Tánaiste Simon Coveney rejected claims the Government believes British prime minister Boris Johnson toned down his Brexit rhetoric because of the recent bomb in Fermanagh.
After a report in a Sunday newspaper made the claim, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the comment was “dangerous and reckless”, adding that Mr Coveney should “dissociate” himself from it. A spokesperson for Mr Coveney last night did so, saying, “it is foolish for anyone to play politics” with the peace process “for headlines”.