May faces new threat of no-con­fi­dence mo­tion

Whether you’ve been fol­low­ing it or not, Brexit will make an im­pact on your daily life, writes Po­lit­i­cal Cor­re­spon­dent Fi­achra Ó Cion­naith

Irish Examiner - - Front Page - Elaine Loughlin Po­lit­i­cal Cor­re­spon­dent

UK prime min­is­ter Theresa May faces a new threat of a vote of no con­fi­dence as she heads into the cru­cial West­min­ster Brexit vote.

As Mrs May faces al­most cer­tain de­feat on the Brexit vote in the Com­mons to­mor­row, Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn has warned that he will “soon” call a vote of no con­fi­dence in her.

In Dublin, the Cab­i­net is to dis­cuss mea­sures re­lat­ing to health and trans­port to­mor- row as the pos­si­bil­ity of a nodeal Brexit in­creases.

It is ex­pected that the Dáil and Seanad would have to sit five days a week with all other busi­ness shelved to deal with 45 mea­sures, in­clud­ing strength­ened com­pul­sory pur­chase or­ders and sign-off on un­lock­ing the bud­get to dra­mat­i­cally in­crease staff at ports and air­ports in the case of a no-deal.

The Busi­ness Com­mit­tee will draw up a timetable for emer­gency Dáil sit­tings and will dis­cuss this on Thurs­day; how­ever, the Gov­ern- ment will push this out as close to the March dead­line as pos­si­ble.

So­cial Pro­tec­tion Min­is­ter Regina Do­herty as­sured the pub­lic the Gov­ern­ment has strong con­tin­gency plans to han­dle a no-deal Brexit and vowed the haulage in­dus­try would still be “sus­tain­able”.

She said: “We will get and we will is­sue the con­tin­gency plans for health and trans­port this week, the fol­low­ing week there will be two more de­part­ments, my own depart­ment will be in the com­ing weeks.”

Seanad Brexit Com­mit­tee chair Neale Rich­mond said a no-deal would put Ire­land in an “emer­gency sce­nario” leav­ing it nec­es­sary to im­me­di­ately pass leg­is­la­tion.

Mrs May with­drew the vote be­fore Christ­mas in the hope that she could muster suf­fi­cient sup­port for the with­drawal agree­ment ham­mered out with the EU. In a last-ditch at­tempt to gain back­ing, she warned of a “cat­a­strophic” breach of trust in democ­racy if her exit plan is de­feated.

Sep­a­rately Mr Cor­byn told the BBC: “We will ta­ble a mo­tion of no con­fi­dence in the gov­ern­ment at a time of our choos­ing, but it’s go­ing to be soon, don’t worry about it.”

Mean­while the de­par tment of Health said im­me­di­ate prob­lems won’t arise for medicine sup­ply if there is a no-deal Brexit.

A spokesper­son for Min­is­ter Si­mon Har­ris said com­pa­nies usu­ally have eight to 10 weeks’ stock al­ready, adding that the Depart­ment, HSE and HPRA would be ad­vis­ing against stock­pil­ing

DEAL. No deal. Ar­ti­cle 50 ex­ten­sion. Sec­ond ref­er­en­dum. Back­stop. Nor­way-Plus. Canada-Style. What­ever your view on Brexit, one point ev­ery­one can agree on is that the deep­en­ing diplo­matic war is full of jar­gon. How­ever, that doesn’t mean you should ig­nore it.

Over the next two months, the Dáil, West­min­ster and Brus­sels will be dom­i­nated by in­creas­ingly pan­icked last-ditch at­tempts to find a break­through to the lon­grun­ning stand-off.

When Le­in­ster House and the Seanad re-open after their win­ter hi­ber­na­tion to­mor­row, Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar will re­peat his Jan­uary 3 press con­fer­ence warn­ing that they must clear the decks for Brexit pro­tec­tion plans.

While the Oireach­tas busi­ness will con­tinue in rel­a­tive nor­mal­ity in Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary, March will be set aside to en­sure 45 new laws and amend­ments bun­dled into four pieces of lengthy pri­mary leg­is­la­tion are passed be­fore the March 29 Brexit divorce date.

Sim­i­larly in Bri­tain, MPs will this week face the mother of all Brexit blood­baths, with the ex­ist­ing Brexit deal al­most cer­tain to be voted down by West­min­ster to­mor­row.

The sit­u­a­tion will force prime min­is­ter Theresa May to pub­lish a ‘Plan B’ by Fri­day that is al­most cer­tain to be re­jected by the EU, or face the un­en­vi­able prospect of crash­ing out with no deal, or be­ing bounced into an elec­tion or sec­ond ref­er­en­dum.

The pres­sure is also be­ing felt in Brus­sels, not only by ne­go­tia­tors but also MEPs, who are all too con­scious of the May elec­tions com­ing quickly into view, and do not want any awk­ward Brexit ques­tions putting a smudge on their shiny CVs when they go to the polls.

This three-pronged pres­sure means that for the next 74 days lead­ing up to Bri­tain’s de­par­ture from the EU, your TV, ra­dio and favourite web­sites will be flooded with se­ri­ous peo­ple in suits talk­ing about the mi­nus­cule de­tails of the most com­plex cri­sis in EU his­tory.

But de­spite the clut­ter of com­ments, most of those speak­ing won’t make it the least bit clearer what Brexit will mean for the one per­son who mat­ters most: you.

What­ever hap­pens come March 29, when all the jar­gon is pushed to one side, Brexit is set to have a ma­jor im­pact on your per­sonal fi­nances, hous­ing plans, work­ing life and even your weekly shop­ping.

If the ex­ist­ing EU-UK deal is some­how dragged over the line ei­ther in to­mor­row’s West­min­ster vote or at a later date, food sup­plies and ac­cess to medicines will be largely un­af­fected, as will trav­el­ling to and from North­ern Ire­land, fly­ing through British airspace and the work of road hauliers be­ing sent to the con­ti­nent.

How­ever, in a worst-case crash-out sce­nario, or­di­nary Ir­ish peo­ple risk be­com­ing col­lat­eral dam­age, with con­cerns medicines will have to be stock­piled, thou­sands of farm­ing and fish­ing jobs at risk, up to €390m po­ten­tially wiped from the tourism econ­omy and claims Ire­land could have a €3.6bn Brex­it­shaped hole in its bud­get.

There are likely to be some ben­e­fits to Ire­land in a nodeal cri­sis, with floods of new jobs po­ten­tially be­ing cre­ated as a knock-on ef­fect of ma­jor com­pa­nies flee­ing the City of Lon­don to set up shop in the Dublin-based IFSC.

How­ever, these ben­e­fits are at real risk of be­ing over­shad­owed by se­ri­ous con­cerns that such a sud­den in­flux of peo­ple will fur­ther deepen Ire­land’s ex­ist­ing hous­ing, home­less­ness and rental crises which are al­ready spin­ning out of con­trol.

The long-winded Brexit de­bates over the past two and a half years may have bored half the coun­try to tears and made the other half break down and cry.

But, be­neath the lay­ers upon lay­ers of jar­gon lie se­ri­ous ways it will af­fect your daily life in a mat­ter of weeks — whether you have been stu­diously avoid­ing any­thing to do with the cri­sis since June 2016 or not. Food and drink ex­ports to the UK are worth €4.5bn a year. We im­port about €4bn worth, so the stakes are very high.

Deal:

If there is a deal, rel­a­tively lit­tle will change in terms of the ex­ist­ing food sup­plies be­tween be­tween Ire­land and Bri­tain.

While some tar­iffs may be im­posed due to Bri­tain’s de­par­ture from the EU, mean­ing there will be a slight in­crease in the cost of some UK-based prod­ucts, it is widely ex­pected those prod­ucts will con­tinue to be avail­able in Ire­land.

No deal:

Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar quipped in re­cent days that “no­body will go hun­gry” in Ire­land in a no-deal Brexit, while Boris John­son sim­i­larly joked at a Dublin Busi­ness and Lead­er­ship con­fer­ence last week that the only food lim­its in Bri­tain will be ra­tioned Mars bars. How­ever, it is not that sim­ple.

While Bri­tain will un­doubt­edly be worse off than Ire­land when it comes to food ac­cess in a no deal sce­nario be­cause Ire­land ex­ports more to Bri­tain than it re­ceives, daily food prod­ucts from Bri­tain are likely to at least tem­po­rar­ily dis­ap­pear from Ir­ish store shelves. Priti Pa­tel’s famine threat won’t hap­pen, but do ex­pect less choices than nor­mal on your weekly shop­ping list. An in­flux in peo­ple and busi­nesses flee­ing Brexit risks deep­en­ing Ire­land and Dublin’s hous­ing cri­sis.

Deal:

In any Brexit sit­u­a­tion, it is ac­cepted thou­sands of ex­tra peo­ple will come to Ire­land and par­tic­u­larly Dublin due to firms flee­ing Brexit. That will force house prices and rental costs up even fur­ther and risks a rise in home­less­ness due to in­creas­ing de­mand.

Pro­vided there is some form of deal, Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar and Hous­ing Min­is­ter Eoghan Mur­phy have been at pains to stress Ire­land can cope with any in­crease in hous­ing de­mand.

This is be­cause in a deal sce­nario the Gov­ern­ment be­lieves its ex­ist­ing Re­build­ing Ire­land plan will en­sure the hous­ing mar­ket can han­dle what is com­ing.

How­ever, the op­po­si­tion in­sists the plan is al­ready out of date and that the prob­lem is be­ing ig­nored.

No deal:

A no-deal sce­nario could po­ten­tially lead to bed­lam, with the num­ber of firms al­ready plan­ning to re-lo­cate to Dublin ex­pected to surge dra­mat­i­cally - push­ing an al­ready sus­pect Brexit hous­ing plan to its ab­so­lute limit.

Speak­ing at an Oireach­tas hous­ing com­mit­tee meet­ing in Novem­ber, Depart­ment of Hous­ing prin­ci­pal of­fi­cer Damian Allen said de­spite Gov­ern­ment plans, a hard Brexit poses gen­uine home­less­ness con­cerns.

Not­ing the fact there is likely to be a surge in firms and peo­ple flee­ing Bri­tain to Ire­land, Mr Allen said “af­ford­able” house prices could rise dra­mat­i­cally due to grow­ing de­mand and that “very sig­nif­i­cant net mi­gra­tion” in­creases could cause a sep­a­rate hous­ing cri­sis.

The view was re­peated by the ESRI and the Nevin In­sti­tute, both of which have warned the Gov­ern­ment’s Re­build­ing Ire­land hous­ing pro­gramme has not been Brexit-proofed and will be ob­so­lete if any hard Brexit hits. Brexit risks se­ri­ously dis­rupt­ing ac­cess to vi­tal medicines for hos­pi­tals, GPs and vul­ner­a­ble pa­tients.

Deal:

If a Brexit deal is agreed, ex­ist­ing drugs links be­tween Ire­land and Bri­tain will con­tinue, mean­ing there will be no cut-off — ei­ther short­term or pro­longed — when it comes to ac­cess­ing medicines needed to treat vul­ner­a­ble pa­tients.

In ad­di­tion, the Depart­ment of Health, the Health Prod­ucts Reg­u­la­tory Au­thor­ity and cross-bor­der groups have in­sisted they are in reg­u­lar con­tact with their coun­ter­parts in Bri­tain to en­sure peo­ple are not af­fected.

Sim­i­larly, the HPRA and its reg­u­la­tory coun­ter­part in Bri­tain have al­ready ex­am­ined a “joint la­belling” sys­tem for drugs in Ire­land and Bri­tain in the event of a deal Brexit.

No deal:

If Bri­tain crashes out of the EU at the end of March with no deal, ac­cess to drugs be­comes far more com­plex, with po­ten­tially se­ri­ous im­pli­ca­tions for the gen­eral pub­lic.

Drugs man­u­fac­tured in Bri­tain risk be­ing unavail­able in Ire­land for ei­ther a short or medium-term pe­riod, while ex­ist­ing li­censes for the UK and Ire­land due to the com­par­a­tively small mar­ket base in this coun­try will be ob­so­lete.

Dur­ing a visit to Rome last July, Taoiseach Leo Varad- kar ad­mit­ted medicines will have to be stock­piled by hos­pi­tals to en­sure se­ri­ously ill pa­tients can still be treated.

How­ever, in re­cent weeks se­nior Ir­ish of­fi­cials have de­clined to say which spe­cific drugs or con­di­tions could be af­fected. A no deal dooms­day sce­nario will cause havoc to shop­pers, fam­i­lies and tourists alike.

Deal:

Thou­sands of peo­ple liv­ing in the Repub­lic reg­u­larly cross the bor­der to shop in Newry and other nearby bor­der towns to take ad­van­tage of deals. Sim­i­larly, thou­sands more travel over the bor­der to ex­pe­ri­ence ge­o­graph­i­cally close sites such as the Gi­ants Cause­way or to visit friends and fam­ily.

If a deal is ac­cepted, or­di­nary pun­ters will still be able to hunt for a deal in the north even though the new cus­toms ar­range­ments could limit the deals avail­able, while tourism and fam­ily vis­its are un­likely to be dras­ti­cally af­fected.

No deal

If a no deal sce­nario oc­curs, all of this will change. The likely im­po­si­tion of cus­toms checks on the bor­der will sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease the amount of time it takes to travel to the North.

Sim­i­larly, there is a real risk of full-scale pass­port check­points which will fur­ther de­lay mat­ters on both roads and Ir­ish Rail — with the lat­ter group con­firm­ing last sum­mer that it is al­ready plan­ning for pass­port checks on trains.

And while you will still be able to travel to North­ern Ire­land in the hunt for deals, the ease of do­ing — which helped make the trend so pop­u­lar — is likely to come to a shud­der­ing halt. Any sug­ges­tion of a re­turn to bor­der checks or a hard bor­der could wipe mil­lions of euro off com­pany bud­gets.

Deal

Since the 1998 Good Fri­day Agree­ment, the num­ber of firms in the Repub­lic con­duct­ing busi­ness in the North has surged due to the peace process.

Cur­rently 99 “sub­stan­tial” busi­nesses op­er­ate on both sides of the bor­der in ad­di­tion to more than 7,000 small ad hoc deals ev­ery year — in­ter­ac­tions worth al­most €4bn a year to both economies.

If a Brexit deal is dragged over the line the pos­i­tive busi­ness steps will con­tinue as the fric­tion­less bor­der will al­low the easy pas­sage be­tween both ju­ris­dic­tions to re­main.

No deal

The threat of a re­turn to a hard bor­der in a no-deal Brexit, and at a min­i­mum cus­toms checks and tar­iffs on goods, will badly dam­age the cur­rent multi­bil­lioneuro ar­range­ment.

In ad­di­tion to the po­ten­tial new dif­fi­culty in op­er­at­ing on both sides of the bor­der, tar­iffs im­posed on items that may be needed for con­struc­tion firms to op­er­ate could cause dif­fi­cul­ties. On­go­ing trade may also suf­fer, all of which will in­evitably have a real im­pact on em­ploy­ment lev­els among af­fected com­pa­nies. The rights of peo­ple in both coun­tries are set to be pro­tected what­ever hap­pens.

Deal

If the UK-EU Brexit deal is ac­cepted, Lon­don, Dublin and Brus­sels have all con­firmed there will be no changes to the cit­i­zen­ship or work­ing rights of peo­ple liv­ing in dif­fer­ent coun­tries within Bri­tain and the EU.

In sim­ple terms, this means if you are an Ir­ish per­son liv­ing or work­ing in Bri­tain you will not be asked to leave.

Sim­i­larly, if you are a British per­son liv­ing or work­ing in Ire­land you will also have your rights pro­tected.

Pic­ture: PA

Theresa May: Head­ing into key Brexit vote.

Pic­ture: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

IM­PORTS: The Gov­ern­ment’s con­tin­gency ac­tion plan for a no-deal Brexit in­cludes a range of pro­pos­als for sec­tors across the econ­omy, in­clud­ing in­spec­tion bays at ports.

Pic­ture: Niall Car­son

FLIGHTS: Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar caused up­roar when he said British planes will not be able to use EU airspace in a hard Brexit, but the same ap­plies to Ir­ish planes us­ing British airspace.

Pic­ture: Shane O’Neill, SON Pho­to­graphic

JOBS: One of the few up­shots of a no-deal sit­u­a­tion for Ire­land will be the likely surge in multi­na­tion­als com­ing to this coun­try from Bri­tain.

HAULIERS: For­get the British lorry con­voy PR ex­er­cise last week — hauliers, ex­porters and im­porters have a Brexit tar­get on their backs.

Pic­ture: Mark Stedman

BOR­DER: In the event of a no-deal Brexit, there is a real risk of full-scale pass­port check­points on the bor­der with the North which will de­lay mat­ters on both roads and rail.

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