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Custom checks, paperwork and delays: Doing business with Britain is now costlier and more difficult, warns Simon Coveney

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Simon Coveney said the EU-UK trade deal had protected Ireland’s core vulnerabilities. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Simon Coveney said the EU-UK trade deal had protected Ireland’s core vulnerabilities. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Simon Coveney said the EU-UK trade deal had protected Ireland’s core vulnerabilities. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

There will be more disruptions and costs on doing business with Britain from today, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney is warning.

Mr Coveney insisted the worst impacts of a no-deal Brexit have been avoided after a trade deal was struck between the EU and UK just before Christmas.

However, the Fine Gael deputy leader said there will still be significant problems for businesses trading with Britain.

“We are going to see more disruption and more delay and therefore more cost on doing business and that’s the downside of Brexit,” Mr Coveney told the Irish Independent.

“There’s no such thing as a Brexit that happens without some disruption or inconvenience because what we’re moving to is a far lesser trading arrangement than what we had before,” he added.

Mr Coveney said the deal struck by EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier does ensure there will be no quotas or tariffs on goods going to or coming from the UK.

However, there will be checks on goods coming into Ireland, and Dublin Port has been transformed to deal with a new regime for examining goods and checking certificates of goods coming into Ireland.

Mr Coveney said there will be some British products that will no longer be sold in Ireland due to transport delays.

He also said some medicines and medical products may not have EU certificates that would allow them be sold in Ireland.

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Mr Coveney had in the week leading up to the Brexit deal said there was a “real risk” the deal could fall apart but said in the end “all of Ireland’s core vulnerabilities” were protected.

He said the Border was protected through the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Mr Coveney said the country also avoided €1.5bn tariffs on trade.

However, the minister said he was disappointed on the deal around fishing rights and said he is still working on improving the agreement for Ireland.

“One area where we’ve been asked to take some pain, which I’m not fully happy, is the fisheries,” he said.

“We are still working now on how we can ensure there is fair burden-sharing and of course how we can support the fishing sector through that disruption,” he added.

He said the deal could be the “best of both worlds” for Northern Ireland despite the DUP voting against the free trade agreement in Westminster.

Mr Coveney said the DUP supported Brexit yet opposed every solution put in place to try to address the Border on the island of Ireland.

“If you’re going to keep voting against things you’ve also got to propose alternatives, and I’ve never heard a credible alternative to solve the issue of the Irish Border that doesn’t involve either a backstop or a protocol,” he said.

DUP leader Arlene Foster MLA recently said the deal brought “many negative issues” for Northern Ireland.

“While recognising this agreement brings about tariff and quota-free trade between the UK and the EU and thus reducing the impact on the GB to NI trade flows, we still have many negative issues arising from the Protocol,” she said.

“Our challenge going forward will be to press the government to get a better outcome in those areas where more work is needed.”

Speaking on Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1 this morning, he said that while the dramatic disruption of a no-trade deal Brexit had been avoided, that does not mean that things are not changing fundamentally for businesses trading with Britain.

"Make no mistake. From today on, any company doing business with, to or through the UK is going to face a very new reality: customs checks, sanitary and phytosanitary checks if there are food products involved, export declarations, health certs, regulatory checks and all of the paperwork and delays and costs that go with that,” he said.

"We have avoided the kind of dramatic disruption of a no trade deal Brexit, but that doesn't mean that things aren't changing very fundamentally, because they are.”

Coveney said the change in trading arrangements with the UK would inevitably cause disruption.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today: "We're now going to see the 80 billion euro (£71.2 billion) worth of trade across the Irish Sea between Britain and Ireland disrupted by an awful lot more checks and declarations, and bureaucracy and paperwork, and cost and delay.

"That is the inevitable consequence, unfortunately, even with a trade agreement which everybody, I think, is very relieved was signed on Christmas Eve."

Mr Coveney said the changes marked the "end of an era".

"For 48 years, the United Kingdom really has been a central part of the European Union.

"That is now firmly ending with the end of the transition period, post-Brexit. For all of us in Ireland, that is not something to celebrate."

Additional reporting by PA


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