The Government has discussed the latest political developments in London and received an update on the Ireland's state of preparedness, in a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday night.

Given the failure to date of the UK to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement, the Government acknowledged "the continuing possibility of a no deal Brexit" and agreed that preparations and communications with business and citizens should not lose pace.

In particular, the government discussed:

  • The need for businesses who trade with the UK to obtain an EORI number (Economic Operator Registration and Identification number) by contacting revenue.ie. The Government noted this registration must be completed by these businesses if they wish to continue to trade with the UK in the event of no deal.
  • The high level of staffing, infrastructure and ICT preparations that has been undertaken at ports and airports for customs checks on an East/West basis.
  • Continued access to certain EU programmes for residents and students in Northern Ireland in a no deal scenario.
  • A continued high demand in Irish passport applications and an increase in motorists with UK driving licenses, who are resident in Ireland, exchanging their license in order to be compliant with the law in case of no deal. Around 600 motorists are exchanging their licences per day.
  • The readiness of the Brexit Omnibus Act containing a suite of no deal measures across nine Government departments, which was signed into law by President Higgins on 17 March.

The Cabinet also noted that discussions have intensified with the European Commission on protecting the integrity of the Single Market while avoiding a hard border in the case of no deal.

Speaking afterwards, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said: "Any type of Brexit is going to mean change and we cannot offset all of the damage of Brexit but we can be ready. Businesses who have not obtained their customs number should do so now. Each business has to register with Revenue - the government can't file these applications - so it's incumbent on firms to do it now."

Earlier, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said as the days pass, a no-deal Brexit looks like a real possibility and preparations for this outcome have intensified significantly.

Speaking during Leaders' Questions in the Dáil, he said the Government is working to do everything to prepare Ireland for a no-deal scenario.

Mr Coveney said Ireland has a dual responsibility to protect the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process and at the same time ensure the EU single market is protected.

He said the Government has intensified discussions with the European Commission on this issue but checks at EU ports on Irish products "was not a runner" and would cause significant damage to the Irish economy. Mr Coveney said the the single market's integrity needed to be protected and at the same time physical infrastructure at the border needed to be avoided. 

Hope is no longer a strategy, he said, and by accident or design we are heading towards a hard Brexit.

No-deal Brexit becoming more likely by the day, says Barnier

It comes as EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Britain has become more likely in recent days to crash out of the European Union without a deal.

"Over the last days a no-deal scenario has become more likely, but we can still hope to avoid it," Mr Barnier said, adding the EU was ready to accept Britain staying the EU's customs union or a relationship akin to the one the EU has with Norway.

Speaking at an event in Brussels after the British parliament rejected any alternatives to Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal, Mr Barnier said Britain now had three choices before the 12 April leaving date.

"Let's not forget first that we have already an agreement, we have already a deal, and it was concluded by Theresa May and the British government and the European Council and European Parliament on November 25 last year, four months ago," he said.

"We tried to make sure that the UK could leave the EU on March 29, just as the UK had foreseen itself... If the UK still wants to leave the EU in an orderly manner, this agreement, this treaty is and will be the only one."

He said Britain could still accept the already-negotiated deal, leave without an agreement, or ask for a long extension to Brexit, which would entail organising European Parliament elections in Britain in May.

But he warned that the UK will not get a transition period unless it accepts the deal.

"During that extension there will be no renegotiation of the agreement," Mr Barnier said.

"There will be no negotiations on future relations. We cannot negotiate with a member state on future relations - there is no legal right to do that."

"If there is no deal, there is no transition," he added.

Mr Barnier said the only way for Britain to leave the EU in an orderly way was to accept the deal negotiated by Mrs May.

"It is the only deal possible to organise the withdrawal in an orderly manner," Mr Barnier told the think-tank debate.

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He later told the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs that no-deal would disrupt EU/UK security co-operation.

"We need to be aware of the implications of a no-deal for our security partnership," he told MEPs.

"There will be a break in the level of talks, less mutual commitment, risks to intelligence pooling. There might be inconsistencies in applying sanctions regimes because of a low level of co-operation.

"The UK would no longer be taking part in EU operations or in the European Defence Agency's capacity-building programmes."

Mr Barnier said: "No-deal for some time poses the threat of there being no organised framework... Come what may, we must fend off the risk of strategic divergence." 

Earlier, the vice-president of the European Parliament has said "it does look like" a no-deal Brexit is "nearly inevitable".

Mairead McGuinness was commenting on a tweet sent by the European Parliament's Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, in which he said that after yesterday's Commons votes "a hard #Brexit becomes nearly inevitable".

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Ms McGuinness said: "It does look like that, given what happened yesterday, and the fact that the Withdrawal Agreement which is on the table for ratification has not been ratified by the House of Commons.

"When you look at the timelines there is concern here in the European Union that the failure of the House of Commons to rally around any particular option leaves us with that thought: that there is this lurching, perhaps by accident, towards a no-deal scenario."

She added that, while a no-deal Brexit was not the desire of the EU, "these things can happen by accident rather than design". 

The vice-president of the French Senate said she believes the UK must present a comprehensive plan in order to be granted an extension.

Hélène Conway-Mouret said an extension is not automatic and the UK's inability to achieve much over the past three years is "worrying".

Speaking on RTE's Morning Ireland, she said the border in Ireland is the most contentious issue which, she said, cannot become a back door for US and Chinese goods.

Ms Conway-Mouret said she believed President Emmanuel Macron would be looking for assurances today that the Irish Government is preparing for a no deal scenario.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is meeting Mr Macron for talks in Paris on the latest Brexit developments.

Additional reporting Reuters/PA