Ireland panicking about Brexit stalemate as Dublin makes plans for EU trade war

Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, said they had started preparing for the results of the UK triggering Article 16 and a potential trade war between London and Brussels.

It comes as the EU waits for Lord Frost’s decision on if and how the UK Government will trigger Article 16.

The bloc has promised to match the UK’s scale of the action.

That, Mr Varadkar said, would likely amount to the EU suspending the trade deal struck by Lord Frost last December which, in effect, would undo the entire Brexit deal.

It echoes the words of Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, who last week said: “One is contingent on the other.

“If one is being set aside, there is a danger that the other will also be set aside by the EU.”

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Mr Varadkar, who as Taoiseach negotiated the Northern Ireland Protocol with Boris Johnson in October 2019, told RTE News at One: “If Britain were to act in such a way that it was resigning from the protocol, resigning from the withdrawal agreement, I think the European Union would have no option other than to introduce what we call rebalancing measures to respond.

“I really hope that Britain doesn’t go down this road.

“Prime Minister Johnson always spoke about wanting Brexit done.

“Brexit is kind of done, but [this] potentially undoes it and I don’t think it would be good for us, for Great Britain, and I don’t see how it would be good for Northern Ireland.”

Mr Coveney last week accused the UK of “deliberately asking for what they know they can’t get” in a bid to get the EU to rewrite the Protocol.

Even though the EU would have to serve notice if it were to suspend the trade deal, Mr Varadkar confirmed there had been a cabinet sub-meeting on Brexit on Monday to “essentially dust down and restart our contingency preparations should we get into difficulty”.

While the triggering of Article 16 would have no immediate impact on exporters, the UK’s trade links with France, Ireland, the Benelux countries and even the US could be hugely damaged.

There are also fears that EU countries could impose 100 percent physical checks on lorries entering from Britain, causing traffic chaos in Kent.

Mr Varadkar claimed: The Protocol is broadly supported by people in business and most political parties in Northern Ireland.

“I don’t think anybody wants to see the European Union suspending the trade and cooperation agreement with Britain.”