Irish government publishes emergency no-deal Brexit bill

Tánaiste Simon Coveney pictured at Government Buildings outlining plans for a no deal Brexit (Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie)

Colin Gannon

The Irish government has today published emergency legislation it hopes “is not needed” but will mitigate some of the “major” economic shocks if the UK crashes out of the EU on Ireland.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney warned that Ireland could return to a budget deficit unless British parliament ratifies a Brexit deal in time.

The Brexit omnibus bill, published in full today, which is hoped to be pushed through all stages of the Oireachtas before March 29, lays out various ways the government can protect citizens and its economy in the event of a no-deal scenario.

The legislation crosses the remit of nine ministers and comprises 15 sections including health, transport, education, social protection and justice.

“Our focus remains on the UK ratifying the Withdrawal Agreement, which was concluded following intensive negotiations between the UK and the EU,” Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said.

“However, for the last two years, we have also been preparing for the possibility that the UK leaves the EU without an agreement. We are doing all we can to avoid a no deal scenario, but we need to be ready in case it does happen.”

Minister of State for European Affairs, Helen McEntee and the Tánaiste
(Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie)

Mr Coveney said that a no-deal Brexit would be “a major shock” for the Irish economy and that remaining a part of the EU is “the best contingency” Ireland currently has.

He added the government will work to pass through the legislation “in a timely fashion”.

Protecting the common travel area and the associated rights and privileges is a key part of the contingency planning and preparations.

The legislation would allow the HSE to cover the cost of healthcare provided in the UK under existing conditions. It would also aim to ensure people can go to hospitals on both sides of the border for treatment.

Measures include enabling third-level students in the UK and Ireland to receive grants for their studies in the UK and Ireland. Social protection provisions allow for the continued payment of 21 benefits, including pensions, illness benefits and child benefit to British citizens living in the UK and vice versa.

The legislation would ensure cross-border rail and bus services continue even in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

There are also proposals to ensure the continued operation of the all-island single electricity market

Simon Coveney told the Dáil on Thursday that the European Commission would bail out Ireland’s beef industry in the event of a trade war with Britain

The bill will enter the Dáil next week for its second stage debate before the committee stage, which begins the week of March 4. It is expected that the Bill will enter the Seanad the following week to ensure it can return to the Dáil for its final stages before the end of the month.

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