Coveney bringing ‘significant’ Brexit memo to Cabinet on trade preparations

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Today’s Cabinet meeting is set to be dominated about Brexit.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER Simon Coveney is bringing what is described as a “significant paper” on Brexit trade preparations to Cabinet.

Yesterday, there was a fallout after reports that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was planning new legislation that would override key parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement – the treaty that sealed Britain’s exit from the EU in January.

In a move that could risk collapsing the UK-EU trade talks, Downing Street said new Brexit legislation is necessary to protect the Northern Ireland peace process if Britain is unable to secure a free trade deal with the EU.

The Irish Government conveyed its concerns through its diplomatic and official channels.

Today’s Cabinet meeting is set to be dominated by Brexit.

“We all want to get this completed by the middle of October, so that we can move on and work with businesses to ensure that they are prepared for the new realities of trading between Britain and Ireland and Britain and the EU next year,” said Coveney.

He added that the suggestion that the UK may introduce domestic legislation, which would undermine the commitments made in the withdrawal agreement would be “a very serious breach of trust”. 

“I think the British government will be in no doubt as to the Irish government’s position in relation to this story. And I hope they take notice,” he said.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said she is very concerned about recent developments. 

“The message is very clear that the withdrawal agreement has been signed, sealed and delivered, that the Irish protocol is part and parcel of that. And there is no plan B there is no rolling back from that position, and it’s essential that the government is absolutely crystal clear on that.

“We have agreed that there could be no damage to the Good Friday Agreement, that there can be no hardening of the border on the island of Ireland, and Ireland cannot be the collateral damage for this Tory Brexit,” she said.

Coveney will bring the final Brexit preparedness memo to Cabinet tomorrow. This is a cross-government plan involving multiple departments to prepare the country for the end of the transition period and a new way of trading with the UK.

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The document will be launched on Wednesday by the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Green Party Leader as well as Minister Coveney.

The plan outlines two possible scenarios at the end of this year:

  • A limited Free Trade Agreement (including fisheries) which Michel Barnier is trying to negotiate.

Or:

  • A no-trade deal Brexit with the EU and UK trading on WTO terms, including tariffs and quotas, from January 1st next.

The plan says that either outcome will involve fundamental change for any business that trades goods “to, from or through” the UK.

The layout of each chapter in the plan concludes with what government is doing and then what an individual business must do to prepare.

Ministers will also discuss at Cabinet the recent controversy over pubs having to keep receipts as proof that food was served with alcohol. Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris will additionally seek Government approval to develop a new 10-year strategy to improve literacy and digital skills among adults. 

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