Brexit delay cannot lead to 'rolling cliff edges' – Irish minister
Ireland will want to avoid a series of “rolling cliff edges” if the UK requests a delay to its exit from the EU, the country’s finance minister has said.
Paschal Donohoe said London would need to convince the EU27 that an extension to article 50 would not further risk economic disruption.
“I believe it is highly important that we do all we can to avoid being in a scenario of rolling cliff edges … particularly from a financial market stability perspective and economic stability, we need to be aware of that,” he said.
Theresa May is expected to ask the EU for an extension next week at the European council summit after MPs voted overwhelming to delay Brexit until 30 June.
Donohoe said the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, had made it clear that Ireland would “provide a generous response” but that London needed to spell out what it wanted from any extension.
A delay of anything from a few months to as long as 21 months has been mooted in recent weeks, with some EU leaders such as the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, questioning the point of any extension if the UK was not clear about the kind of Brexit it wanted.
Ireland’s deputy prime minister, Simon Coveney, is among those who have suggested that a long extension could be helpful, despite the complications, as it could “facilitate a fundamental rethink” of the approach the UK has taken to Brexit.
Donohoe told Bloomberg TV: “What is really important to us and to the European Union is that … we are all clear what that extension period is for and that the availability of that extension period doesn’t in any way heighten the kind of economic risk that we are trying to avoid at the moment.”
He said Ireland was still hopeful a deal could be achieved before 29 March as originally envisaged. “The few days that are now approaching continue to be of the highest importance.”
Asked if he feared a last-minute demand from EU leaders to succumb to British pressure for a time limit on the Irish backstop, he said he was confident that “the solidarity that has been shown to Ireland up to this point will continue”.
Donohue rejected suggestions that Ireland would relent in the face of pressure from the farming community, which is facing a potential disaster if Britain crashes out of the bloc and imposes high tariffs on imports of meat and dairy from Ireland.
“The backstop is as much an indispensable tool of our economic future as it is of our political stability,” he said. “Any change regarding the status of the border on our island would not only would have profound political consequences but would have profound economic consequences.”