Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Brexit Lisa Chambers TD says the Government must step up its domestic preparedness for Brexit as the clock ticks towards March 2019.

Deputy Chambers headed a Fianna Fáil delegation to the European Commission and Parliament to meet with the Article 50 taskforce, Commissioner Hogan and other stakeholders and interest groups.

Following the series of meetings Deputy Chambers commented, “At the moment the sole focus is on the European Council meeting in June and whether sufficient progress will be made on the issue of the backstop. Fianna Fáil is supportive of the Government’s efforts in this regard and is adamant that there cannot be a hard border on the island of Ireland.

“However, I and my colleagues also acutely aware that Brexit encompasses more than just the issue of the border – it will also result in significant changes to the East-West trading relationship. The UK is our nearest neighbour and largest trading partner and it will become a third country at 11pm on the 29th March 2019.  We must be prepared for that.

“Whilst I recognise that a 21 month transition period has been agreed in principle, that is dependent on there being a withdrawal agreement and we cannot take anything for granted. 51% of our beef exports and 26% of our beverage exports go to the UK and irrespective of the type of Brexit that emerges there will be a change to our trading relationship.  We need a plan for this reality.

“I and my colleagues Niall Collins and Billy Kelleher were in Brussels last week for a series of Brexit meetings and this week I held meetings with the food and drink sector.  The message that is being relayed to us is that more needs to be done to help businesses prepare for Brexit. They are asking what happens if there is a hard Brexit, and in particular, the challenges that the land bridge poses.  They also expressed concerns about the expected lengthy delays between Dover and Calais. Many businesses feel unprepared for such a scenario.

“Fianna Fáil is not, as the Government has claimed, trying to score political points by criticising its domestic approach to Brexit. We are trying to protect our businesses and SMEs and ensure that whatever the outcome, the government has done all it can to insulate them against the worst effects of Brexit. This is simply just common sense, nothing more, nothing less”.