Wednesday 18 October 2017

Ross attacked over ‘lip service’ to Brexit talks

Transport group fury that minister has not met with counterparts

European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (right) listens to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker during the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg, eastern France, yesterday. Picture: AP
European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (right) listens to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker during the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg, eastern France, yesterday. Picture: AP

Gavin White

A freight transport group says it is "incredible" that Shane Ross has failed to meet any of his UK or EU counterparts since the Brexit vote.

The Irish Independent yesterday revealed that the Transport, Tourism and Sport Minister has failed to meet with any of his British or EU counterparts since the Brexit vote last June.

Despite the implications of the UK's EU withdrawal for the transport and tourism industries in Ireland, the minister said that only his civil servants have met with EU and British government representatives.

Aidan Flynn, head of the Freight Transport Association of Ireland, told the Irish Independent that he was "very disappointed" in the minister's lack of meetings with his EU and UK counterparts.

Negotiation

"It's not only the transport industry that is being affected, but he is also the minister for tourism and sport. He should be the main one leading the negotiations," he said.

Read More: State using bank bid as leverage in exit talks

Mr Flynn said that "trading goods with the UK is a key issue" and that it requires "leadership" in the negotiations process.

He said: "There are several key issues at stake, with movement of trade and the cost of business included, and the negotiations haven't even started yet. "It's clear that the minister can be quite influential in that process.

"During the Brexit negotiations, it is essential that both the UK and EU negotiating teams find solutions that will work for all parties, without causing undue delays and disturbance to trade and supply chains on the island of Ireland."

But Verona Murphy, head of the Irish Road Haulage Association, said she would be "very surprised if the minister had met them".

Ms Murphy said: "Until the minister is removed from that post, the industry will not progress.

"To be honest, we had our first and last meeting with the minister on June 29 last year, after he reduced the maximum weight that articulated lorries could carry to 40 tonnes, and that has been the only action since he has become minister."

Meanwhile, Adrian Cummins, CEO of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, has asked Mr Ross to "roll up his sleeves and put on the green jersey" in the negotiations for Brexit. He said: "What we need now from the minister is action, and not lip service, in regards to Brexit."

Mr Cummins said that given the "massive impact" that Brexit would have on tourism, "real leadership is required".

"Brexit is going to hurt on a massive scale, given the huge volume of British tourists we receive," he said.

"If you think of tourists coming over to Ireland, they have to eat in a restaurant, so Brexit will directly affect the industry."

Mr Cummins told the Irish Independent that Mr Ross needed to "show his colours" for negotiations and urged the minister to guarantee to "keep in place the 9pc vat rate" adopted for the industry in 2011.

Meanwhile, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said avoiding a "hard Border" with the North was one of the main priorities for the EU in Brexit talks.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, hopes talks will start the day after the UK general election on June 8.

Irish Independent

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