Ireland Has a Fallback Brexit Plan If Talks Fail, Premier Says

  • Irish PM doesn’t rule out seeking special Brexit arrangements
  • Government pushing to maintain status quo on border, trade

Irish premier Leo Varadkar

Photographer: Press Association via AP Photo

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Ireland has “fall back” positions in case the U.K. and European Union fail to agree a wide-ranging free trade agreement following Brexit, the nation’s prime minister said.

Irish premier Leo Varadkar told lawmakers in Dublin on Wednesday while he’s determined to secure a customs union partnership and free trade agreement or area between the EU and Britain, the government is developing contingency plans in case “if things do not work out.”

“We certainly do not rule seeking special arrangements for Ireland and Northern Ireland but that is not by any means our negotiating positions or preference,” Varadkar said, declining to give any more details.

Ireland is the EU economy most vulnerable to Brexit, and keeping the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland open after Brexit is one of three divorce topics, along with citizens’ rights and money owed by the U.K, that require “sufficient progress” before the EU will allow talks to move on to the future relationship.

Though progress has been made on the Irish issue, it’s not likely enough movement will have been made to allow talks to shift gear this month, according to a person, who is familiar with the Irish government’s preparations for Brexit and asked not to be named as the deliberations are private.

Any effort to secure special status for Northern Ireland will be complicated by the Democratic Unionist Party, which keeps U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May in power.

“I see some talk coming out of Europe around that, but that’s just not acceptable,” DUP leader Arlene Foster said in a Bloomberg Television interview with Anna Edwards on Tuesday. “If there were to be a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K., that would be a red line for us.”

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