The Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Coveney, has said he believes a British crash out is still unlikely but the Government has to plan for one just in case the UK leaves the European Union next month without a deal.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Six One News, Mr Coveney said that should that happen, the Government has been preparing to try to limit the damage and protect vulnerable people and vulnerable sectors.

The Omnibus Bill, outlining measures to help address a no-deal Brexit, was published by the Government this morning.

Mr Coveney said he has no doubt that this legislation will become law in time.


He said there is already a timetable agreed with the opposition parties and the legislation published today should be through both the Dáil and the Seanad by the middle of March which would give a cushion of nearly two weeks in case any additions are necessary at the end of that process.

Mr Coveney said this morning that a disorderly Brexit will be a "lose, lose, lose" for the UK, the European Union and for Ireland.

Speaking at a press conference at Government Buildings, he said he hopes that legislation prepared by the Government in the event of a hard Brexit will never be used and that it "sits on a shelf". 

The Government said it will protect Irish citizens, support jobs and secure ongoing access to essential services across the island in a worst-case scenario.

The 70-page document includes provisions that would allow for the continuation of cross-border initiatives, such as healthcare, education and electricity supply.

Mr Coveney said the bill is a result of the work of nine Government ministers and departments who have worked on the legislation for more than a year.

He said the work started with a root and branch trawl of laws to determine what changes will be needed if the UK becomes "a third country overnight".

The Tánaiste said that a hard Brexit "will be a shock to all of our economies".

"A disorderly Brexit will be a lose, lose, lose for the UK, for Europe and for Ireland. We cannot offset all the damage it will do, but we are doing everything we can," he said.

The Tánaiste said that Ireland's number one contingency is remaining a full member state of the EU, with all the support and solidarity that comes with that in the context of a disorderly Brexit.

Mr Coveney also said the country potentially faces an emergency situation in a worse-case Brexit scenario and the Government is trying to prepare "as best we can".

He said the Government had got a lot of co-operation on the omnibus legislation put forward today from Opposition parties and would continue to talk to them.

The bill was not party-political but a collective effort by the Dáil, he added.


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Mr Coveney said the EU is "certainly up" for changing the text of the future relationship declaration with the UK if there are ways to provide reassurance to the UK and "the intent is there to provide a timely deal".

However, Mr Coveney said that the EU will not renegotiate the text of the backstop agreement as it makes up part of the Withdrawal Agreement and the EU does not want to reopen any talks that will lead to other EU countries raising concerns. 

The minister said that the EU is looking at ways to try to provide reassurance on the temporary nature of the backstop and how they can do that.

Mr Coveney said that solutions were being sought - even on a temporary basis - until they find longer-term solutions. 

He asked: "Is anyone seriously suggesting that because there isn't a deal all the commitments and reassurances given to the people of Northern Ireland are worth nothing?"

Mr Coveney said the UK has a responsibility to respond to the consequences that will follow should no deal be agreed.

Bill is 'designed to protect'

The Tánaiste also said that his colleagues in France and the Netherlands have the same feelings about their own legislation. 

In relation to the backstop, he said that it is fiercely supported by the people it is designed to protect, as well as "in business, farming, and civic groups in both jurisdictions".

The bill is designed to protect Irish citizens, support jobs and secure ongoing access to essential services across the island.

Described as a landmark piece of legislation, the bill encompasses 15 laws in one that the Government says will be needed to protect citizens and businesses in Ireland if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal.

The bill addresses the practical issues around such a scenario, including cross-border arrangements for healthcare, so that patients in Ireland could continue to be reimbursed if they get medical treatment in the UK, and that patients could travel to the UK for emergency organ transplants.

It also deals with welfare, meaning that pensioners and other Irish welfare recipients living in the UK could continue to get payments.

The laws also seek to protect the rights of Irish employees of British companies if they go insolvent.

It contains a range of measures for grant aid and supports for businesses to deal with the impact of a no-deal Brexit.

The Government has said that it will work closely with the opposition to ensure the bill is passed before Britain is scheduled to leave on 29 March.