A secret no deal dossier, known as Operation Yellowhammer, warned British plans to avoid a hard border will likely prove “unsustainable” in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The leaked Whitehall document suggests that a hard border on the island of Ireland is all but inevitable despite pledges to ensure “no new checks, with limited exceptions” between Northern Ireland and the Republic. But claims that the measures “to avoid an immediate risk of a return to a hard border on the UK side” are “likely to prove unsustainable because of significant economic, legal and biosecurity risks and no effective mitigation to address this will be available”, the dossier adds.
The shock admission has sent panic through Dublin with senior politicians urging Mr Varadkar to “wake up” to the real threat of a no-deal Brexit.
They believe food, medicine and fuel shortages in Britain would soon also become a problem for Ireland because of the close trading relationship between the two countries.
The Irish prime minister has remained steadfast in his refusal to allow renegotiations of the controversial Northern Ireland backstop.
Boris Johnson has insisted that the measure to avoid a hard border must be scrapped before he considers returning to the negotiating table with Brussels.
The Prime Minister has insisted Britain will leave the European Union without an agreement on October 31 unless there are significant renegotiations.
A senior Irish government source last night told the Irish Independent: “People might start realising that Leo Varadkar is not engaged in project fear as he has been accused of, but actually that in 74 days we face a major national emergency if this is not resolved.”
Fianna Fail, who prop up Mr Varadkar’s government through a confidence and supply deal, have insisted the British dossier should be seen as a “wake-up call”.
Lisa Chamber’s Fianna Fail’s Brexit spokeswoman, said: “Reports of food, fuel and medicine shortages in Britain will surely result in some form of contagion in Ireland because of extensive use of the UK land bridge.
“There needs to be a greater sense of urgency from the government as well as more transparency about our level of preparedness for all Brexit eventualities.”
Despite the warnings, Simon Coveney, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, insisted the backstop must not be abandoned to facilitate a Brexit deal.
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He wrote on Twitter: “Ireland has been respectful of the UK decision to leave the EU from the start, but has always been clear that border infrastructure on the island of Ireland must be avoided.
“The backstop is the insurance, designed by UK, EU and Ireland, to protect the peace process. That’s why we need it.”
Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neil said the report merely highlighted concerns expressed to the European Commission and Britain for months.
She said: “These reports are no surprise to those of us on this side of the Irish Sea who have been voicing our very real concerns on the consequences of a no-deal Brexit for a considerable period of time directly with the British Government and European Commission.
“The island of Ireland faces its biggest and most profound challenges in a generation as the threat of a no-deal Brexit becomes a growing reality in the immediate time ahead.”
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According to the leaked Whitehall dossier, no deal would “severely disrupt trade” between the UK and Ireland.
The document says: “The expectation is that some businesses will stop trade to avoid paying the tariff, which will make them uncompetitive, or to avoid the risk of trading illegally, while others will continue to trade, but experience higher costs which may be passed on to consumers.
“The agri-food sector will be the hardest hit, given its reliance on highly integrated cross-border supply chains and high tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade.
“Disruption to key sectors and job losses are likely to result in protests and direct action with road blockages.”
Ireland heavily relies on the so-called UK land bridge for its trade with the rest of the EU.
Any disruptions in trade between the UK and the Continent will have significant repercussions on Dublin.
Allies of Mr Johnson believe the growing pressure on Ireland will convince European leaders to renegotiate to avoid no deal.
One Cabinet minister said Brussels would budge, because otherwise “Ireland is f*****”.
But Brussels continues to reject the Prime Minister’s hardline stance, insisting the withdrawal agreement will not be reopened.
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