Preparations for a no-deal Brexit 'very rapidly stepped up', says foreign affairs head

'Nothing will replace the landbridge,'  warns secretary-general
Preparations for a no-deal Brexit 'very rapidly stepped up', says foreign affairs head

Dublin Port: Significant work is now being carried out to develop ireland's ports and direct connections to the EU. Picture James Horan/Photocall

Preparations for a no-deal Brexit have been "very rapidly stepped up", the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs has revealed.

Secretary-general of the Department of Foreign Affairs Niall Burgess has said the work around Brexit, which is now a whole-of-Government effort, is "unlike anything I've seen in my career".

As Britain presses ahead with a controversial bill that would break international law and renege on parts of the withdrawal agreement, Irish officials are now preparing for the worst possible outcome.

In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Mr Burgess said: "If you look at the big things we've been dealing with and Government has been dealing with for the last 10 years. The financial crisis was the first major, major issue that cut across Government.

"We were emerging from the financial crisis when you had the referendum on Brexit. We were well ahead in our preparations, planning, and negotiations on the UK departure from the European Union when the pandemic hit.

"Each of those issues has required a kind of an integration right across Government and across Government departments unlike anything we've ever seen before."

Mr Burgess said significant work is now being carried out to develop ports and direct connections to the EU.

However, Mr Burgess warned: "You can't replace the landbridge."

There is growing concern that Irish hauliers will be severely impacted due to their reliance on using Britain as a route to Europe.

Around 150,000 Irish trucks use the UK landbridge to export 3m tonnes of goods to the EU every year.

"There are two dimensions — the main one is making every possible effort to make sure that the landbridge is still functioning and viable for Irish exporters after Brexit, no matter how hard the Brexit is," Mr Burgess told the Irish Examiner. "But the other is to find alternative routes as well, that could be grown and established over time."

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