Irish Deputy PM warns no-deal Brexit will 'devastate' NI economy

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By Benjamin Cooper, PA

Ireland's Deputy Prime Minister has warned that a no-deal Brexit will "devastate" the Northern Irish economy.

Simon Coveney, who also serves as Irish Foreign Minister, said in a newspaper column that Dublin's priority since the Brexit referendum has been maintaining peace on the island.

He also noted Brexit was a sovereign matter for Britain, as was Ireland's decision to remain in the bloc.

"Nevertheless, if Britain decides to leave without a deal it would cause huge

damage to us all," Mr Coveney wrote in The Sunday Times.

Leaving Brussels without a deal would hit Northern Ireland particularly hard, he added.

"A no-deal Brexit will devastate the Northern Irish economy with tariffs and rules that will fundamentally disrupt the all-island economy upon which so much progress has been built."

Britain's prime minister after Wednesday would need to understand that the backstop aspect of Brext was agreed to protect the Good Friday Agreement, Mr Coveney said.

"The Withdrawal Agreement is a balanced document that deals with the interests of all parties and is not something that is up for renegotiation."

In May, Irish premier Leo Varadkar and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn met in Dublin and shared their "serious concerns" about a no-deal Brexit scenario and its "inherent dangers".

A spokesman for Mr Varadkar said the pair "considered Brexit, with both sides sharing serious concerns about a no-deal scenario and its inherent dangers, including the possibility that the UK may end up in a no-deal situation by default unless alternatives are pursued".

Last month, members of the Westminster Foreign Affairs Committee were warned of the danger to Northern Ireland of a no-deal Brexit - including the potential for further violence - during a meeting with local groups and political representatives in Armagh.

In July, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald urged the Irish Government to start preparing for a border poll as the risk of a disorderly Brexit increased.

Ms McDonald said a referendum on Irish unity could happen "very quickly" if the UK crashed out of the EU at the end of October.

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