Ireland will not be 'building a wall' or sending troops to border in event of no deal Brexit - Minister

By Juno McEnroe
Political Correspondent

Ireland is not considering 'building a wall' or dispatching soldiers to the border in the event of a disorderly Brexit, European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee insisted.

Emergency funding supports for certain sectors and a deteriorating relationship with Britain were among the areas discussed yesterday by Ms McEntee with an Oireachtas European Affairs Committee.

With five weeks to go before Brexit, the government tomorrow will publish emergency powers and measures to safeguard transport, welfare payments, funding supports and healthcare.

Earlier this week, the DUP's Sammy Wilson claimed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had talked about a 'Berlin Wall' and sending Irish troops to the border. But Ms McEntee firmly rejected Mt Wilson's claims.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, peace must be upheld in the North, the minister said. The Good Friday Agreement must continue and the government is not considering “anything like a wall” or sending soldiers to the border, she stated.

Solidarity from EU member states was still strong, Ms McEntee said.

Outlining lifelines available to firms facing a disorderly Brexit, Ms McEntee confirmed dozens of companies had already started drawing down emergency funds.

The Brexit loan scheme with a fund of €300m has, so far, saw 338 firms draw down financial supports, in sectors such as agri-food, retail and distribution, manufacturing, hospitality and transport.

Oireachtas members were told that 66 loans, to date, amounting to €15.3m had been approved.

Business Minister Heather Humphreys, meanwhile, is also considering a special "rescue fund" for businesses, it was noted.

Ms McEntee explained to TDs how a fractious rapport had developed between Irish and British ministers due to the wrangling over Brexit.

It was fair to say that relationships with UK ministers were “somewhat strained”, she told the committee.

Nonetheless, the Irish government wanted relations with British counterparts to continue after Brexit and would use special committees to do so after its neighbour had quit the EU, she added.

Social Affairs Minister Regina Doherty, meanwhile, pledged that contingency plans and agreement are in place so that welfare payments here and in Britain remain in place post-Brexit.

While it is hoped a special convention will be signed into law in Britain by March 19, the emergency legislation here will ensure arrangements under the Common Travel Area remain, she told a separate committee.

The plan was that Irish people living in Britain would "not notice" changes when it came to payments such as pensions, child benefit and welfare claims.

But Fianna Fail's Willie O'Dea was critical of the late publication of the emergency legislation.

This was especially so with potential tariffs that would “wipe out” the agriculture sector, he warned.

Furthermore, Ireland was one of one of the last countries in Europe to look at such legislation, he said.

It was regrettable that Ireland was in this position, he told colleagues, with everyone staring a no-deal now in the face over a British referendum campaign that had been “misleading”, because of a parliament that had become the “laughing stock of the world” and all so the British Prime Minister could “keep her own party together”.

KEYWORDS:

Brexit

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