Government "very much prepared" for Brexit - Varadkar

The Social Protection Minister says the government's St Patrick's Day programme will not be an issue if the Brexit process is triggered while the cabinet is abroad

Government "very much prepared" for Brexit - Varadkar

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar speaks to reporters, 13-03-2017. Image: RollingNews

The Minister for Social Protection has insisted the government’s St Patrick's Day schedule will not leave the country under-prepared for Brexit.

The British Prime Minister could trigger article 50 as early as tomorrow if the British House of Commons passes legislation granting her the legal right this evening.

Only a handful of politicians are expected to oppose Mrs May’s EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill meaning it should pass through both British houses of parliament today.

However, the majority of Ireland’s cabinet will be touring the globe this week to mark St Patrick’s Day and promote Irish trade and tourism around the world.

The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and 27 Ministers and Ministers of State are travelling to 27 countries as part of the “Promote Ireland” programme.

Transport minister Shane Ross will be the only member of cabinet to remain at home - however, Minister Varadkar said the programme won’t cause any issue, regardless of when Mrs May decides to trigger Brexit.

“We are not all jetting off actually,” he said. “At any given time there are a number of ministers in the State - I am here today and tomorrow, others will be coming home when I head off for example on Wednesday.”

“In the modern world it is possible to be in contact quite easily with the office back home, but we are very much prepared for the consequences of Brexit.”

The Minister said the government has been planning its strategy and position for some time – with a number of key priorities set aside for when negotiations begin.

“Obviously we are determined to retain the common citizenship that exists between Britain and Ireland,” he said. “To ensure that there is no border - north and south, neither hard nor soft - and that Britain remains integrated into the trade structure so that we have, at the very least, a trade agreement between the European Union and Britain.”  

“Also we are determined to learn from the lessons of the referendum in Britain and electoral contests around Europe that a lot of citizens of Europe are disaffected with the European Union.”

Minister Varadkar will be travelling to France as part of the St Patrick’s Day programme.