Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has claimed the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s recent speech at the Chamber of Commerce in Derry indicated that the Irish government was preparing for a scenario under which there will not exist barrier-free access between the North and the South after Brexit.
The leader of the opposition in the Dáil was hitting back over an earlier claim by the Taoiseach that Fianna Fáil’s calls for ‘contingency planning’ for a breakdown of the customs union between the UK and the EU amounted to calling for border guards.
“The Taoiseach said that the call for this contingency planning was tantamount to calling for border dogs to be trained,” said Mr. Martin.
The Fianna Fáil leader described these comments as ‘intemperate’ and suggested that his speech at the recent Chamber of Commerce dinner in Derry, during which he said he would “seek a unique solution for Northern Ireland, reflecting its unique history and geography” if a customs union is not attainable, indicated a shift in policy.
Mr. Martin said: “On that occasion he said that we were planning for different contingencies and ‘we will seek a unique solution for Northern Ireland’. Will he explain why he said one thing in the House last week and then something completely different in Derry? Will he confirm that he is preparing proposals for a situation where the UK does not have barrier-free access to the EU?”
Mr. Varadkar replied: “On contingency planning, it is appropriate for any government in office to plan for worst-case scenarios. Some years ago we had a plan for what we would do if the euro fell apart; of course, therefore, Governments have to engage in contingency planning. Doing a desktop exercise and engaging in due diligence on worst-case scenarios are very different from what seems to be Fianna Fáil policy. Perhaps RTÉ misreported what had happened at the Ard-Fheis, but I distinctly read an article about a motion being passed calling for an electronic border with gantries and M50 style tolls.”