Events in Westminster this week have dominated the political agenda in Dublin as the government ramps up its preparations for a No Deal Brexit. The Irish government has been in close discussions with the European Commission over how Ireland, in the event of a No Deal outcome, can honour its commitments to the Good Friday Agreement while also maintaining the integrity of the EU’s single market. Pressure from opposition parties – who to date have broadly supported the government’s Brexit strategy – is mounting as uncertainty increases as to how and where checks would take place along the border.
Despite continued pressure from the British Prime Minister and his government, Dublin and the EU have so far refused to discuss changes to the Withdrawal Agreement including the backstop mechanism. Despite multiple promises, the British government has not yet brought forward its plans to replace the backstop with workable, alternative arrangements. In short the two sides are deadlocked.
The Irish government will shortly announce which version of its forthcoming budget in October it will pursue with officials planning for either a managed Brexit or a No Deal outcome. Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has this week raised his growing concern of the likelihood of the UK crashing out of the EU on October 31st.
Boris Johnson is due to make his first trip to Dublin on Monday in what will also be his first face to face meeting as Prime Minister with the Taoiseach. In his most direct speech to date on the implications of a crash out scenario, Leo Varadkar last night warned of the disruption to everyday life which would result from a failure to reach agreement, as well the prospect of customs checks “near” the border.
In what is expected to set the tone for a much anticipated meeting between the two leaders on Monday, the Taoiseach noted that compared to the difficulties which the UK could face arise from years of discussions over a future UK-EU trade deal, the current talks on the backstop were the easy part in the Brexit process.
In an interview with national broadcaster RTE, the Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minster) last night gave an interview timed to coincide with the Taoiseach’s speech, where he too raised the prospect of border checks for the first time and suggested that these could be “temporary”.