Simon Coveney: Ireland is preparing for the worst

Simon Coveney: Ireland is preparing for the worst
Tánaiste Simon Coveney

TÁNAISTE Simon Coveney has said Ireland is preparing for a worst-case scenario with UK Prime Minister Theresa May set to lose a key vote on Brexit tonight.

The Tánaiste admitted it is unclear what will happen next and that Ireland is preparing intensively for all eventualities, including a no-deal Brexit.

“There is a lot of work going on here in terms of preparing for a worst-case scenario but we also need to work to ensure that doesn’t materialise.

“In a no-deal Brexit, everyone loses, but we have to prepare for that,” he added.

Westminster MPs will finally deliver their verdict on the Withdrawal Agreement hammered out with Brussels, with the Prime Minister expected to lose heavily.

The UK is scheduled to leave the European Union on March 29.

The Tánaiste said that should Ms May lose this evening’s vote, she has just three parliamentary days to effectively come up with a plan B.

He said that Ireland will have to wait and see how the British parliamentary system responds to the PM losing the vote.

Mr Coveney said: “The expectation is that, if the vote is lost today, the Labour party will put down a motion of no confidence in the government very quickly, perhaps as soon as tomorrow, and that that motion will also be lost.

“Where do we go from there?” he asked.

“Ireland needs to hold its head this week and respond calmly to what is, in many ways, turmoil in Westminster.

“It’s really not clear what happens next and that’s why we are preparing intensively for all eventualities including a no-deal Brexit, which I still think is unlikely.

“I think there is a strong majority in Westminster determined to avoid a no deal Brexit.

“However, there isn’t a clear majority on how to do that and we’ll have to see how that develops in coming days.

The Tanaiste added that a heavy defeat this evening will not necessarily bring us closer to a no deal scenario.

“The Prime Minister will have to create a majority in Westminster to avoid a no deal Brexit, which is not easy.” Four memos on contingency plans for a no deal Brexit will go to the Irish government today.

Two from the Tanaiste will discuss common travel area and provisions, to protect Irish people’s rights in the UK, and emergency legislation that would be required to protect Ireland in the event of a no deal Brexit.

Two more will discuss new routes for bringing medicine to Ireland and transport in general.

Ministers were expected to agree today to freeze work on many new laws as they bid to get ahead of a no-deal Brexit scenario.

However, Cork North Central TD Mick Barry said the Government should not be allowed to use the Brexit crisis to push issues like tackling the housing crisis and delivering pay justice for nurses to the back of the queue. He said: “Brexit is important but it is not the only issue. There must be justice for the nurses. There must be justice for half a million people impacted harshly by the housing crisis."

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