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EU prepares multi-billion aid plan to shield Ireland from no-deal Brexit

Jon Stone

Brussels is drawing up a multi-billion pound aid package for Ireland to shield it from the effects of a no-deal Brexit , it has been reported.

A senior EU diplomat told The Times newspaper that the bloc would "spend whatever was necessary" to support Ireland.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay earlier this month warned Ireland that a no-deal Brexit would damage its economy more than it damaged the UK.

The minister said the British government was prepared to leave the EU without a deal and that the threat to Ireland's economy from a no-deal would force Brussels back to the table.

While projections suggest the UK would be damaged up to ten times worse than the EU by a no-deal Brexit, the effect on the bloc would not be distributed evenly - with Ireland bearing the brunt of the economic damage.

Despite the ill effects, many Brexiteers who are hell-bent on leaving the bloc quickly are prepared to inflict the damage on the UK and its neighbours if they do not get their way.

Simon Coveney, Ireland's foreign minister, on Sunday called on Boris Johnson to reassess his campaign pledge to reject the controversial Irish backstop, which drove MPs to reject the current withdrawal agreement that could have prevented a no-deal but still delivered Brexit.

“While we accept that there’s been a very competitive leadership contest in the Conservative Party, we want to hear what they have to say when they’re in Number Ten,” he told The Andrew Marr Show.

“If the approach of the new British prime minister is that they’re going to tear up the withdrawal agreement, then I think we’re in trouble, we’re all in trouble, quite frankly.”

Mr Barclay had highlighted figures that show 40 per cent of Ireland's trade passes through Dover, which is predicted to be gridlocked in the event of a no-deal.

Mr Johnson has said he would threaten to withhold the £39 billion Brexit divorce bill to try and bounce the EU onto taking the backstop out of the withdrawal agreement.

But every EU leader and official who has ever commented on the matter in public since last year has said the withdrawal agreement will never be re-opened.