Following a Cabinet meeting at Derrynane in Co Kerry, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced that the Government will hire over 1,000 new customs and veterinary inspectors before 2021 to administer at our ports and airports as Ireland prepares for a possible hard Brexit.
Speaking a press conference after the meeting Mr Varadkar said that “with growing uncertainty” over whether British Prime Minister Theresa May will get a withdrawal agreement through Westminster, Ireland needs to “up our preparations when it comes to Brexit.”
He went on to say that “the UK is leaving the EU and some things are going to change. Today the Government agreed a series of measures to be ready for that change. The key decisions are particularly focused on areas where the Government has direct responsibility and on measures that need to be taken on an East-West basis, such as customs and veterinary controls at ports and airports.The Government also reiterated its position today that it would not countenance a return of a border on the island under any circumstances, including in the event of a hard Brexit.
“That involves preparing for and hiring veterinary inspectors to carry out sanitary checks on agricultural products and plant-based products coming in from Britain and also customs inspectors,” he said.
The Taoiseach also warned that UK planes could be restricted from flying in EU airspace in the event of a no deal Brexit.
He said UK could not take back its waters and have access to EU skies.
“You can’t have your cake and eat it,” he said.
The Irish government has also agreed on new measures including the tasking of relevant departments to prepare detailed action measures building on their already extensive contingency plans which in some cases were drawn up prior to the EU membership referendum in 2016 and have now been updated to include recent developments.
Although Dublin still anticipates that the introduction of a hard Brexit is unlikely, contingency planning for the outcome of a ‘no deal’ Brexit is at an advanced stage, according to the government press office, but a number of sections of the plan will not be published due to negotiations between the EU and the UK for an agreed Brexit still ongoing.
The Cabinet also agreed to continue to be directly involved with the European Commission Taskforce and EU Brexit Preparedness Unit on areas where the lead policy role lies with the EU.
The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade, Simon Coveney, said: “It is important to be clear that the decisions taken by Government today do not represent the beginning of our preparations. A huge amount of work has been underway across Government and its agencies for many months. We will also be carrying out some of our preparations on an EU-wide basis, in cooperation with our EU partners. The UK has chosen to walk away from the EU’s comprehensive regulatory framework but we will continue to benefit from the stability of our EU membership.”
While there is no direct information as to what the final outcome will be with regards to the type of Brexit that is going to happen, it seems certain that the Irish Government is prepared to get the jump on Westminster and have the resources in place to deal with such a negative outcome as a hard Brexit. But even the concept of what a hard Brexit is is still uncertain as the White Paper from last week has been scribbled over so many times now, it now probably looks like a drunken love letter.
Either way, hard or soft, Ireland and Europe are continuing do to do what the British government has failed to do over the last two years – prepare, plan and now, initiate.
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