FOREIGN Affairs Minister Simon Coveney told a Brexit briefing in Kinsale this morning that negotiations are a ‘damage limitation’ exercise where there are no winners.
Speaking at the business breakfast, hosted in the Blue Haven Hotel by Senator Tim Lombard, Minister Coveney said that a lot of progress had been made in recent weeks adding: ‘We are 85% there now.’ And he said he didn’t believe all the ‘hype’ that suggested we were moving towards a no-deal Brexit.
‘I don’t believe that will happen,’ he said, adding that nobody was in favour of that outcome. But, he said, we must be in no doubt that the talks are all about limiting the damage done by the Brexit vote.
‘It’s lose, lose, lose for everybody’ he said. ‘The EU will be hurt by a big trading partner like Britain leaving, and we will be hurt too.’
He reminded the audience that there are 38,000 Irish SMEs – employing 200,000 people – doing business in the UK and ‘hundreds of thousands’ more linked to those firms. The trade relationship between both countries is worth €70bn, he said.
Minister Coveney also said that there were now more Irish people living in the UK than in Connaught so there is the ‘equivalent of an Irish province’ in the UK.
But, he said, everybody accepts that there will be a transition period of about two years so that on the morning after March 29th 2019, in effect, ‘nothing will happen’.
During that period the negotiations will continue on a number of sensitive issues like security, defence, and fisheries, and more.
For a full report on the Brexit meeting, organised by Cormac Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald & Partners in Kinsale, see next week’s Southern Star.
After the meeting he spoke to the Star about how local companies can prepare for Brexit: