Business groups and UFU silent on prospect of an Irish Sea border

Senior Northern Ireland politicians meeting Taoiseach for Brexit talks

Ireland has no plans to start preparing infrastructure for a possible hard border with Northern Ireland, Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said on Friday.

He added: "I know looking at things today that it looks like it's going to be very hard to win the vote in the House of Commons but I think as reality kicks in and as the precipice approaches, you may find more and more people becoming willing to support this deal".

He said if it looked as though Britain were heading towards a no-deal departure from the European Union then direct discussions on how to avoid a hard border would be required.

He said the UK Government had been "clear in their dealings" with the Irish Government and the European Union that they meant to leave on March 29 and they would not be seeking a delayed Brexit.

"In a no-deal scenario, it would be very difficult to avoid a hard border because of the obvious fact that, [with] Ireland remaining part of the European Union, we would no doubt be asked..."

But Maajid warns that a trade deal where Northern Ireland is a different customs arrangement to the rest of the United Kingdom would create a hard border within the UK.

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"Are they really saying they would join the World Trade Organisation and the first thing they would do is to refuse to implement World Trade Organisation rules?"

"We can avoid a hard border by signing up for the agreement that has been negotiated", Varadkar told reporters.

"What we are not doing is putting contingency plans in place that would result in border infrastructure between the two jurisdictions on this island".

"British politics is so volatile at this time, we don't know who is going to emerge as prime minister, but regardless who is in charge it is hard to see what alternative deal Europe could give them".

And while there is widespread opposition to May's Brexit withdrawal deal now, that could ease "as reality kicks in, as the precipice approaches", Varadkar said.

This morning, Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and Northern Ireland Minister Shailesh Vara, both resigned over the deal.

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