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Taoiseach warns businesses to 'get it into your heads' that things will be different after Brexit

The UK’s post-Brexit transitionary period ends on 31 December.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin in a large terminal in Dublin Port today.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin in a large terminal in Dublin Port today.
Image: Julien Behal Photography

Updated Nov 23rd 2020, 3:03 PM

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has warned against ‘a complacency’ among SMEs about the effect Brexit will have on trade and and the Irish economy.

Speaking to reporters in Dublin Port today, Martin said that whether there is a trade deal or not it will be “the most significant fundamental change in our economic narrative in over 50 years”. 

“We will go from customs declarations of about 1.5 million up to about 20 million per annum,” he said, urging Irish exporters to “do you paperwork in advance”. 

“You will speed up the process in terms of getting your goods to the market and onto the shelves. Without question there will be a very significant change, notwithstanding whether there’s a deal, or whether there’s a no deal. Even if we have a deal, the implications for businesses and companies will be significant,” he said. 

The one concern I’d have is that maybe there is a complacency among some SMEs out there, that everything will be okay and ‘sure if we get a deal, won’t that be okay?’ It will be different, and you’ve got to get that into your heads. Businesses have to get it into their heads that life will be different, unfortunately, after the first of January.

Despite the warning, Martin sounded an optimistic note about the prospect of a post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and the EU.

The Taoiseach said there have been “intensive” engagement for weeks and there is now “texts on all areas”. He added that it remained to be seen whether the text on the outstanding areas could be agreed.

Over 90% of topics have been agreed upon and drafted but three main obstacles have remained as a block to securing a final deal before the deadline: the level playing field, governance, and fisheries.  

Martin said this morning that a deal is “in the best interest of the United Kingdom, of Ireland and of the European Union”.

“President von der Leyen did say to EU leaders last Thursday night at our virtual conference meeting that there were texts now on all areas. So I would be hopeful that by the end of this week we could see the outlines of a deal,” he said.

But that remains to be seen. It’s a down to political will in the United Kingdom and I’m clear the political will is there in the European Union. So one must remain hopeful that a deal can be arrived at.

On a disputes mechanism that could be in place following a deal, Martin also said he was confident, noting that there is “a lot more in common between the United Kingdom and Europe than that which divides us.”.

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Martin was visiting Dublin Port to inspect the Brexit-related infrastructure in place and said that he observed “tremendous interagency cooperation” at the port. 

Trade arrangements for Northern Ireland, being researched and discussed by a separate committee, remain unclear ahead of 31 December when the UK will leave the Brexit transitionary period. 

Addressing concerns that Northern Ireland consumers will be left with less choice on shelves and more expensive goods, the Taoiseach said: 

“There are issues that people have genuinely raised on the UK side and within Northern Ireland. The First Minister and Deputy First Minister wrote jointly to us in relation to that and however it goes, the discussions on the protocol have gone well and so I would be confident we can resolve those as well.”

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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