Thursday 20 September 2018

Simon Coveney calls for 'sensible' Brexit transition period of up to five years

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has called for a "sensible" transition period of up to five years after the UK officially leaves the European Union next March.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Minister Coveney said it was "not realistic" to agree upon a UK-EU free-trade deal next year, despite the intention voiced by Theresa May.

An outcome "that is good for the British economy and Irish economy and the EU economy . . . requires a sensible and pragmatic approach towards a transition arrangement. For me, that’s closer to four or five years rather than two," Mr Coveney told the paper.

Theresa May has already formally requested what an implementation period of "about two years" to soften the blow of Britain’s exit from the EU in March 2019.

During this transition period, the UK would stay in the single market and customs union.

Read more: 95pc of firms still have no plan to deal with Brexit

However, Mr Coveney said that "we should not be setting transition periods to meet some kind of political electoral cycle".

"The businesses that are going to have to survive through that transition will also need time," he said.

This week, it has been revealed that the number of Irish businesses that have a plan to deal with the fallout from Brexit is falling, prompting fears of rising complacency as growth continues and last year's shock UK vote fades from memory.

The latest InterTradeIreland Business Monitor shows 95pc of businesses across the island of Ireland don't have a plan for Brexit.

Small and medium enterprises are thought to be the least prepared, and are putting off taking action because of the difficulty of predicting the shape of a final settlement.

"Brexit is not something we should be playing a game of chicken on in terms of making unrealistic demands," Mr Coveney said in the interview.

"It’s a much worse outcome for Britain and Ireland than for everybody else if there’s no deal."

British and EU negotiators will meet in Brussels again this Thursday and Friday for more Brexit talks.

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