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Statement by An Taoiseach on the outcome of the ‘Meaningful Vote’ in Westminster

The Irish Government profoundly regrets the decision of the House of Commons to reject the Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and UK and the associated Joint Political Declaration. It is not the outcome we wanted.

Over the coming weeks, the Government will continue to work with our European partners in a collective effort to conclude an agreement with the UK. The deal provides a guarantee that a hard border will be avoided, and that citizens’ rights and freedoms will be protected. A No Deal scenario would have a deeply negative impact on jobs and the economy, particularly on agrifood and the traded sector - our farmers, our fishermen, our rural economy and our businessmen and women. A No Deal scenario would not protect the Peace in Northern Ireland. We will work hard to avoid it.

At the same time, our plans for a No Deal Exit will continue. These are no longer contingency plans. They are being implemented by the Government. Now businesses and other organisations must do the same. For Government, this involves legislation including the omnibus Brexit bill, preparations at our ports and airports for customs and SPS checks, contingency plans to ensure medicine supplies are not interrupted, and further plans to support our exporters, businesses, employers, farmers and fishermen who may be affected severely.

We should never forget that Brexit is a British policy that originated in Westminster. After months of negotiation, we found a solution. That solution has now been rejected by Westminster. The problem now lies there. We understand that the Prime Minister will now consult with other political parties on an agreed way forward. We welcome that. The onus is on Westminster to come up with solutions they can support and that Europe can accept.

We have always said that if the United Kingdom were to evolve from its red lines on the customs union and the single market, that the European position could also evolve. We have also always said that the risk of an unplanned, disorderly Brexit at the end of March can be avoided, including if necessary by an extension of the Article 50 deadline. This would be subject to a request from the UK being made, and agreed by all Member States.