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'We're not sitting on our hands' - work under way to prevent hard border


Theresa May has hinted she may not bring her deal back to parliament for a third time

Theresa May has hinted she may not bring her deal back to parliament for a third time

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Theresa May has hinted she may not bring her deal back to parliament for a third time

Work is under way to ensure there is no hard border on the island of Ireland even in the event the UK crashes out of the EU with no deal.

Ireland is not "sitting on our hands" when it comes to thinking about ways of avoiding such a Border if a disorderly Brexit occurs, Tanaiste Simon Coveney said last night.

While he insisted it was too soon for formal talks on how to avoid the return of Border checks in a no-deal scenario, Mr Coveney said there will have to be special arrangements on this island.

It is understood negotiations are ongoing in the background about how to achieve this.

Any potential solution will have to be agreed by the Irish and British governments, in conjunction with the European Commission.


It comes after German Chancellor Angela Merkel was reported as telling other EU leaders that they need to start thinking about a fallback plan for protecting the Good Friday Agreement.

This week's EU summit was the first time the leaders of the 27 remaining member states talked in serious terms about the implications of the UK crashing out without a deal.

Speaking at the Fine Gael National Conference in Wexford, Mr Coveney said that the UK had already published a paper which acknowledged the North needed special arrangements.

"That is a paper which recognises that Northern Ireland is unique and different to the rest of the UK in terms of tariff treatment and Border checks," he said.

"Whether there is a deal or no deal, the way we will resolve these issues will involve some form of regulatory alignment."


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May hinted that she might not bring her European Union withdrawal deal back to parliament for a third time next week if there was not enough support for it to be passed.

Mrs May's Brexit deal has already been twice rejected by MPs but the prime minister was expected to try a third time next week.

An EU summit on Thursday granted an extension to Britain's departure from the bloc in an attempt to give her time to get her deal through parliament, but in a letter to lawmakers yesterday, she suggested that such support might not be forthcoming.

"If it appears there is not sufficient support to bring the deal back next week, or the house rejects it again, we can ask for another extension before April 12 - but that will involve holding European Parliament elections," she wrote in a letter published on Twitter by a BBC reporter.


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that if the UK does end up leaving the EU without an exit deal it will be entirely by its own choice.

"We all need to bear in mind that nobody wants a no-deal here.

"But no-deal, if it happens, will be a British choice," he said this week.

The Taoiseach added that it was the UK which chose Brexit in the first place and it was the UK which fixed the March 29 deadline.

The UK did not need permission to revoke the Article 50 exit process - and resume EU membership right up to the deadline, Mr Varadkar said.

In the House of Commons, a cross-party group of pro-EU MPs claim they have the numbers to force a series of "indicative votes" on alternatives to the Brexit deal.