EU finally gets it! Brussels scrambles for no deal plans as Boris refuses to back down

Brexit: Micheal Martin says deal ‘in best interest’ of everyone

Mrs McGuinness’s warning to the finance, public expenditure, reform and the Taoiseach committee of the Dail, Ireland’s upper legislature, came prior to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s meeting with commission President Ursula von der Leyen, which subsequently ended in stalemate. The 61-year-old former journalist, a member of former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael party, told TDs: “Today we are preparing contingency plans, very specific and very narrowly focused to make sure that in the event of a ‘no deal’ that those sectors that are vulnerable, transport, aviation etc, that specific plans are put in place to maintain connectivity.”

I’m not very confident from the speech made by the British prime minister in the House of Commons today

Mairead McGuinness

Referring to Mr Johnson’s assessment of the prospects of a deal, delivered in Parliament yesterday, she said: “I’m not very confident from the speech made by the British prime minister in the House of Commons today.

“I think there is a failure to understand, which perhaps is a failure of Brexit at the very outset, if you choose to leave, there are consequences, particularly where that country wants to stay part of the single market.”

Mrs McGuinness also said she “shared the pessimism” of Ireland’s current Taoiseach, Micheal Martin, who yesterday said Brexit talks were “on the precipice of collapse”.

She added: “In the commission we have particular concerns around making sure that anyone who has access to the single market in this case, the United Kingdom, plays by the same rules of the market.

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“Of course there are other concerns around governance and fishing.”

With three weeks to go before the end of the transition period, Mrs McGuinness also warned there was now precious little time left to play with.

She explained: “Time is running out, the prospect of this negotiation running into next week is not a realistic proposition if it is to be ratified by the European parliament and indeed other parliaments perhaps. We are running out of road, we know that, we are prepared and we know what needs to be done.

“If Boris Johnson wants to be in the single market while remaining outside the European Union the United Kingdom must meet the rules we have in place.”

The EU is expected to publish contingency legislation for a no deal Brexit sometime today.

Mrs McGuinness has only been in her current post since October, having been appointed after Phil Hogan was forced to resign from his role as European Commissioner for Trade in the wake of the furore over his attendance of a social function in the west of Ireland in contravention of coronavirus regulations.

Her remarks are indicative of the deep concern at the heart of the Irish establishment at the prospect of a no-deal outcome.

Speaking to Express.co.uk earlier this week, Ray Bassett, Ireland’s former ambassador to Canada, said there was “severe trepidation in Irish official circles”.

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He added: “I would classify it as a mixture of fear and powerlessness. Dublin is very much on the periphery of the action now with very limited ability to influence events but will be the most impacted of any EU State by the eventual result.

“The Government is aware that the country is not really prepared for a no deal.

“It has already conceded that it will not be in a position to mitigate delays to Irish goods going to mainland Europe through the UK landbridge.

“There are also reports that the French customs at Calais cannot distinguish between British and Irish Goods on their computer system and hence there is every possibility that whatever difficulties UK goods will encounter that the Irish will be similarly affected.

“The direct sea routes to France and Belgium have very limited capacity and are long and expensive. It is a difficult outlook.”

Also speaking yesterday, Mr Martin said: “At the moment we are on the precipice of a no-deal.

“It remains to be seen how the principals – Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President of Commission Ursula von der Leyen – can rescue the situation in their talks this evening.”

Speaking after Mr Johnson’s meeting with Mrs von der Leyen, a Downing Street spokesman said: “The PM and VDL had a frank discussion about the significant obstacles which remain in the negotiations.

“Very large gaps remain between the two sides and it is still unclear whether these can be bridged.

“The PM and VDL agreed to further discussions over the next few days between their negotiating teams.

“The PM does not want to leave any route to a possible deal untested.

“The PM and VDL agreed that by Sunday a firm decision should be taken about the future of the talks.”

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