A no-deal Brexit would be a "lose, lose, lose" situation for the UK, Ireland and Europe, the Irish deputy prime minister has warned as he outlined emergency laws which could be enacted if it should happen.
The Irish Government has published a wide range of worst case contingency laws to be enacted if no agreement is reached before the end of next month.
The Omnibus Bill, which will be fast-tracked through the Irish parliament, is designed to support businesses and jobs impacted by a no deal and secure ongoing access to essential services and products across the Irish border.
The European Commission plans to relax rules to give Dublin more flexibility to support businesses in the case of a no-deal Brexit.
What are the emergency laws?
- Health – Citizens will be to continue to access services in the other jurisdiction. This means the existing arrangements in relation to health services which currently operate between Ireland and the UK will continue to operate.
- Transport – Cross-border rail and bus services will continue to operate. These include regular scheduled services including school bus services, as well as occasional services such as sports club buses and tour buses.
- Social welfare – Pensions and other benefits will continue to be paid meaning the legislation will protect hundreds of thousands of people. Some 132,000 people in Ireland receive social welfare payments from the UK and 28,000 people in the UK receive social welfare payments from the Republic of Ireland.
- Justice – The current extradition system will see some changes to extradition arrangements between Ireland and the UK as it will no longer be part of the European Arrest Warrant system.
- Businesses – State agencies will be able to lend to Irish businesses, particularly to vulnerable sectors.
Tanaiste Simon Coveney, the deputy head of the Irish government, said he hoped the Bill would never need to be enacted.
“My only desire is to see this legislation sit on the shelf,” he said.
But he warned a no-deal Brexit would cause widespread damage.
“Let me be very clear in saying a disorderly Brexit will be a lose, lose, lose – for the UK, for the EU and for Ireland,” he said.
“We cannot offset all of the damage it will do, but we are doing everything we can through legislation, through preparation, through investment, through information and through support of the multiple sectors and the multiple numbers of people that will be impacted potentially by that worst-case scenario.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said his government remains focused on "the UK ratifying the Withdrawal Agreement," but Ireland remains aware of the possibility this may not happen before 29 March.
“We are doing all we can to avoid a no-deal scenario, but we need to be ready in case it does happen."
He added that the legislation will help Ireland mitigate some of the "worst effects of no-deal by protecting citizens’ rights, security, and facilitating extra supports for vulnerable businesses and employers.”
The DUP’s Sammy Wilson said a lack of border checks in Ireland’s emergency Brexit plans proved warnings about the frontier were just careless rhetoric.
“This legislation points to the reality that in 2019 there is no need for the type of borders we knew in the 70s, 80s and 90s,” he said.
Sinn Fein has reiterated calls for a referendum to unify the island of Ireland under one flag.
Despite drawing up wide reaching plans to absorb the impact of a no-deal across Irish society, the Dublin government's public position has consistently been that its contingency measures do not include proposals for border checkpoints.
The EU Commission's move on state aid rules governing the agriculture sector will enable the Irish Government to increase the maximum amount it can use to support farmers without prior Commission approval.
On Friday, the Commission also approved a specific Irish state aid application which will allow a Co Cork cheese company to receive state aid funding to diversify its business away from reliance on the UK market.