1. ITV Report

Varadkar rejects claims of being secretive over Brexit

Varadkar made the comments ahead of the vote on Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement in UK parliament. Credit: PA / Niall Carson

The Taoiseach has rejected accusations from the opposition that the Irish government is being secretive about its no-deal Brexit planning.

Leo Varadkar also said he believed a no deal was still unlikely, despite the Irish government pushing ahead with its contingency planning in the event of the UK crashing out of the EU without agreeing a deal.

Mr Varadkar made the comments in the Irish parliament on Tuesday 15 January ahead of the vote on Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement in the UK parliament.

He was responding to criticism by Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin.

Mr Martin said, "The Government has treated the Dail and the public shabbily and badly when it comes to sharing its plans in the event of a no-deal Brexit. I think you should treat the Oireachtas and the public with greater respect."

He added, "What is the big secret? What is behind the reluctance to share basic information with people in terms of a no-deal Brexit?"

Mr Varadkar replied, "I really don't accept the deputy's charge."

He said the opposition was due to the briefed on Tuesday afternoon to update parliamentarians on the government's plans.

Four memos relating to a no-deal scenario were debated by Irish ministers at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning. They related to the common travel area, medicines, transport and potential Brexit legislation.

An "omnibus big Brexit bill" containing 17 separate draft laws is being prepared so they can be rushed through the Irish parliament if needed. These draft laws were approved by ministers during the meeting.

Mr Varadkar said, "I still believe a no deal is unlikely but I think we have to be prepared for it, or at least prepared as any country possibly can be."

He reiterated that the Withdrawal Agreement was the only alternative to leaving without a deal.

"The Withdrawal Agreement is the only agreement on the table and it's an agreement that has been supported by 28 governments including that of the UK," he said.

"Of course we'll allow the democratic process to take its course in Westminster. They'll vote on the Withdrawal Agreement and four amendments and we'll review the position tomorrow in consultation with our EU colleagues."