Dublin prepares for no-deal
THE Irish government has begun implementing plans for a no-deal Brexit amid deteriorating prospects for agreement between Britain and the EU ahead of March 29.
With little over 70 days to go before the UK is due to sever ties with Brussels, the threat of a hard border is looming increasingly large.
On Wednesday night Theresa May survived an attempt to oust her as prime minister, as MPs rejected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's motion of no confidence in the government by a margin of 325 to 306.
Tory rebels and the 10 DUP MPs who consigned Mrs May to the worst defeat in parliamentary history when they rejected her EU withdrawal agreement on Tuesday rallied behind her to see off the threat of a general election.
The prime minister responded by inviting leaders of opposition parties to meetings with her on the way forward for Brexit.
Mr Corbyn said the government must first remove the prospect "of the catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit", while EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier also warned that the risk of crashing out without agreement is higher than ever before.
And in Dublin, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said his government was moving from contingency planning to implementing measures for a no-deal scenario.
He warned there would be a "deeply negative impact on jobs and the economy" and it would jeopardise peace in Northern Ireland.
The government will make preparations at ports and airports for customs and biosecurity checks on goods and there will be measures to ensure medicine supplies are not interrupted.
His remarks came as Tánaiste Simon Coveney sought to play down reports that he said some form of border checks would be introduced in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
PREPARING FOR NO-DEAL
The Irish government's contingency plans focus on ensuring smooth sailing for goods destined for mainland EU countries that normally go through Britain.
It says demand for further capacity will be met, including extra land for parking, and there has been interest among businesses in new ferry services that will allow goods to bypass the UK and sail straight to the EU market, avoiding possible delays at Dover.
Checks to prevent the spread of diseases, pests or contaminants will take place at airports and ports in line with EU legislation. These will focus on animals, foodstuffs and plants.
60-70 per cent of medicines used in the Republic either come from the UK or are transported through it.
A list of 24 medicines to "pay particular attention" to has been drawn up, with a working group meeting every week for nearly two years, but Leo Varadkar advised against stockpiling in order to prevent a break in supply.
In Northern Ireland, medicine supply is "the single biggest issue we face" according to Department of Health permanent secretary Richard Pengelly. He told Westminster's Northern Ireland Affairs Committee this week that "ensuring the robustness of the supply chain" is a priority.
The Irish government is putting all necessary legislative changes into an omnibus Brexit Bill, made up of 17 different pieces of legislation.
Businesses in the north have been advised on a raft of Brexit preparations by Invest NI. Its 'Think Ahead' strategy includes advice for managers in dealing with financial and legal issues, along with people management in the event of a no-deal.