'We need to beef up our Brexit team' - Bertie Ahern
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has called on the Government to "beef up" its Brexit team by appointing a special envoy to Europe.
The former Fianna Fáil leader believes a senior business person or ex-prime minister with expertise in trade negotiations and a high profile in the EU would be an ideal candidate.
Speaking exclusively to the Farming Independent, Mr Ahern stressed that appointing a permanent Brexit delegate in Brussels, and a Brexit Minister in Leinster House, will be essential to protect Irish agriculture going forward.
"I agree with the idea of a Brexit Minister at cabinet level, where everything is co-ordinated by one person, but from a negotiating position you can't have that person going back and forward.
"There should be another person specifically appointed to look at trade issues based in Brussels permanently," he said.
Mr Ahern said the role would involve liaising with Michel Barnier, former French foreign minister and the EU's chief negotiator on Brexit, talking to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and communicating with representatives of the 27 member states.
"Negotiations on Brexit will be a hell of a task and if anyone thinks that it can just be done by individual ministers having a bit of spare time, that won't happen," Ahern insisted.
"It is massively important for us - 17pc of our exports go to the UK but when you look at agribusiness, it's 50pc plus, so how Brexit affects agriculture in the Republic and Northern Ireland is massive," he pointed out.