Indian-origin Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has said he believes there is a “growing possibility” of a no-deal Brexit at the end of the year.
He disclosed that Irish ministers are ramping up preparations for Britain and the European Union to fail to reach an agreement on a post-Brexit free trade deal.
“We need to make sure we are fully prepared at our ports and airports to institute whatever checks are necessary,” he said.
Varadkar, who is acting as caretaker Taoiseach or prime minister until a government can be formed following Ireland’s hung parliamentary election in February, echoed comments from other senior EU figures.
France’s European affairs minister Amélie de Montchalin, has said it is “for the birds” for United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson to claim that Britain could as an alternative pursue an Australia-style trading relationship with the bloc. And she has suggested that the post-Brexit transition period could have to be extended for another six months, a step which has been firmly ruled out by the UK government.
Despite Boris Johnson arguing that Britain could have an Australian-style trading relationship with the EU if the two sides cannot strike a deal by December 31, critics argue that would be tantamount to reverting to World Trade Organisation terms, which could require detailed checks on items heading from Great Britain to Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland.
After the two sides set out their opening positions in Brussels, the negotiating teams began the gruelling task on Tuesday of exploring the details of a potential trade deal.
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the talks were going well but stressed that the Brexit process was “a school of patience”.