Latest: Calls for Government to increase efforts to avoid a hard border following Barnier's warning

Update 5.25pm: A disorderly Brexit would have a potentially catastrophic impact on Ireland, the Government has been warned.

The comments were made by Fianna Fáil's Stephen Donnelly following a speech by the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who stated that if the UK decides to leave the customs union and single market, border checks would be unavoidable.

"Even though a transition deal was never a given, Mr. Barnier’s comments, only 13 months out from the Brexit deadline are deeply worrying. The consequence of a disorderly Brexit for Ireland is potentially catastrophic," said Deputy Donnelly.

Stephen Donnelly

"The absence of a deal would cause chaos for Irish businesses – and could prove devastating. Widespread job losses in agriculture, fisheries, textiles, tourism and SMEs trading along the border will become a very real prospect.

"Any business exporting to the UK will be impacted, and even those transporting goods further afield will be hit as 80% of non-UK goods exports have to travel across the UK to Europe.

"Barnier’s assertion that border controls are inevitable in the event of the UK exiting the customs union could spell disaster for Irish businesses, especially if our Government doesn’t start prioritising contingency planning.

"I am well aware of the good work being undertaken by officials in certain State agencies, but I don’t believe that a whole of Government response is being fully adopted. In fact, up until a few days ago, the Cabinet Brexit sub-committee hadn’t met since last September.

"Added to this, a sector by sector Brexit plan, which was promised almost a year ago, has still not been published.

"The Government must start making use of every political and diplomatic asset available to them to ensure any possibility of a hard border with the North is eliminated and that the political space is created to find a way through the current impasse and ensure a transition period."

Earlier: Checks at Irish border 'unavoidable' after Brexit, warns Barnier

Checks at the Irish border will be "unavoidable" under Theresa May's Brexit plans for the UK to leave the single market and customs union, Michel Barnier has warned.

Brussels' chief Brexit negotiator also told reporters that agreement on a transitional deal after the UK leaves the bloc in March 2019 was "not a given".

After the latest round of Brexit talks between officials in Brussels, he said three "substantial" disagreements remain with the UK over plans for a transition period.

He added: "If these disagreements persist the transition is not a given."

On the issue of the Irish border he told reporters: "Any solution must be precise, clear and unambiguous."

He added: "It is important to tell the truth. A UK decision to leave the single market and to leave the customs union would make border checks unavoidable."

Earlier: Theresa May urged to update Irish Government on post-Brexit border plans

British Prime Minister Theresa May has been urged to tell Ireland what her government's proposals are to solve the Irish border issue after Brexit.

European affairs minister Helen McEntee said the number of proposals being taken off the table seemed to make finding a solution "more and more difficult".

Her comments come after the British government ruled out remaining in any form of customs union, instead pursuing a customs partnership or arrangement in an attempt to maintain frictionless trade.

Ms McEntee told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It seems more and more difficult the more proposals or options you take off the table. However, we are yet to see any proposals in its absence.

"So we need the UK government, we need Theresa May and her team, to start looking at and to start I suppose letting us know what the proposals are coming from their side and what their options are.

"They have always been very clear and before the agreements in Christmas or on December 15 they made it very clear that they felt they would not need this backstop position or this backslide, that they would be able to work with the EU to create this close relationship."

She added: "So what we need to see now is how is that going to happen.

"On our part we feel that a lot of the ways of doing that have been taken off the cards - there are a lot of red line issues - so we need to see what is possible and how that's actually going to work, and to date we haven't seen that."

Earlier: Varadkar: Clarity needed on post-Brexit relationship

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said “time is running out” for British prime minister Theresa May and her cabinet to decide what kind of Brexit they want, writes Daniel McConnell

Leo Varadkar and Sebastian Kurz. Pic: Dragan Tatic

Speaking in Vienna following a bilatteral meeting with Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Mr Varadkar said certainty is needed as soon as possible, adding that the March 2019 deadline is fast approaching.

“Certainly I am not losing patience, but time is running out, March 2019 isn’t all that far away now,” he said.

It would be difficult to agree a transition agreement without knowing what kind of relationship would come out of it.

“We await an outcome from the UK cabinet as to exactly what relationship they want with the EU after Brexit. As much clarity as soon as possible would be welcome.

"It is 20 months now since the referendum, 20 years since some people started campaigning for one. So at this stage having clarity as to what the UK would like its new relationship to be like would be very welcome.”

Mr Kurz who is just 31 and who spent some time in Bray, Co Wicklow, to learn English, said he supported the Irish case for no return to a hard border, describing the situation with the North as “delicate”.

“We need a solution which is a satisfactory one for Ireland with a delicate situation when it comes to Northern Ireland,” said Mr Kurz. “A hard border between Ireland and Great Britain will not work.”

Mr Varadkar, who was guest of honour at a gala opera in Vienna, also said he would be using the occassion to press the case for Central Bank governor Philip Lane to be nominated to the board of the European Central Bank.

“Yeah of course,” said Mr Varadkar. “We didn’t get to speak about it in our tête-à-tête meeting but we will be speaking later on in the evening.

"We do have somebody on the General Council but not on the board. We’re putting forward for the first time a candidate of distinction, Philip Lane.”

Mr Kurz said he would look positively at the Irish proposal.

Mr Varadkar also said that while he wished Mary Lou McDonald well as the new Sinn Féin president, their parties remain incompatible in terms of government formation.

He also said he wished her elevation to president would lead to a break in the celebration of the violence events of the past.

“I think it would be welcome if the new president of Sinn Féin was to bring about a clean break with the past, particularly the ongoing celebration of violence by Sinn Féin at commemorations and so on,” he said.

This story first appeared on IrishExaminer.com

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