Northern Ireland news

North stands to be biggest loser in no deal Brexit

Simon Coveney described a no-deal Brexit as 'an ugly prospect'

TANÁISTE Simon Coveney has warned that a no deal Brexit could hit Northern Ireland hardest.

The Fine Gael deputy leader was speaking as the Dublin government unveiled its latest plan for dealing with the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

The 117-page report, which is an update on an action plan laid out in December 2018, warns that a no deal Brexit will be "highly disruptive".

It says that frictionless cross-border trade could end, with tariffs and customs checks leading to greater costs and disruption for businesses.

Under the section covering political, security and societal impacts, the report states that the consequences of the UK crashing out of the EU could be "very damaging".

It says that if the Stormont institutions were in place at the time of a no deal Brexit it would be a "very significant test of their resilience", and that if devolution were not in place, reaching agreement on its restoration would be "even more difficult".

"The further delay, following an already extended period without the institutions, would have significant implications for wider public confidence," the report says.

"A no deal Brexit risks significantly undermining wider community relations and political stability in Northern Ireland, with potential related security concerns."

Speaking after the report's release, Mr Coveney said a no-deal Brexit would "put political relationships on this island under a great deal of strain".

"It will make it more difficult for the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement to function and it will be a fundamental disrupter to the all-island economy," he said.

The foreign affairs minister said an "enormous amount of work" had gone into the Dublin government's preparations for all Brexit scenarios.

"But that said that doesn't mean it's going to be okay – a no deal Brexit will be hugely challenging, it will put huge strain on certain sectors within the Irish economy and it will perhaps be most damaging for Northern Ireland," he said.

"We of course want to work to ensure a no deal doesn't happen but we have to prepare for that scenario and we have to face up to the ugly truths of what it means."

Responding to reports yesterday that border checks will be necessary in the event of a UK crash-out, Mr Coveney said the Republic's government would not put checks in place "on the border or close to it".

He said Dublin was involved in ongoing talks with the European Commission about how to avoid border checks while protecting the integrity of the EU's single market.

The report repeats the previous assessment of up to 55,000 job losses and says trade across the Irish Sea will disrupted.

It says a no deal scenario would take up to €6.5 billion (£5.85 billion) out of the Dublin government's coffers as it targeted funding at the sectors most affected and increased welfare payments due to higher unemployment.

The report also outlines a number of measures to mitigate Brexit's impact, ranging from increased resources at points of entry, business support, and a memorandum of understanding giving a commitment to uphold the Common Travel Area between Ireland and Britain.

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