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Simon Coveney: UK crash out could still happen by accident or default

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney has warned that “a crash out” by the UK from the European Union could still happen “by accident or default.”

The legal position remains that the UK will leave the EU at 11pm on March 29th, he said. If that position is to change then legislation will have to be introduced and passed in Westminster.

He told RTE radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show that a no deal scenario would be a lose for everyone.

Europe wants a deal, added Mr Coveney. Across Europe the position is not viewed as “the EU versus the UK”. Most countries have the objective to have the closest relationship possible with the UK.

“We all want close trade, political and security relationships with the UK.”

An extension of Article 50 would open up the Brexit debate in “a much broader way” he said and could facilitate “a major rethink.”

Ireland needs to be very careful not to be viewed as trying to tell the UK what to do, he warned. “We are negotiating a withdrawal agreement that protects Irish interests and recognises Britain’s red lines and accommodates them. It’s about compromise.”

Brexit is still a very unclear process, he said and Ireland has to prepare for a no deal Brexit “just in case.”

Even if it’s a slim possibility, we have to be ready.

Ireland will not object to a lengthy extension, added Mr. Coveney. “Brexit has been going on for years now and still we haven’t got past Stage 1.” Agreeing to the withdrawal agreement is just the start of it. There would still be a transition period of between two to four years which will allow businesses to react and face the new realities.

On the same programme Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen said he was “deeply disappointed” that so many of his party colleagues “had tried to take no deal off the table.”

There was still lots of dealing to be done, he said. “To my mind the withdrawal agreement as worded is a bad deal.”

He said he will continue to vote against the agreement. He warned that the DUP is also against the withdrawal agreement and without their support the government could fall. “That could happen.”