Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Brexit Stephen Donnelly TD had said that President Tusk’s announcement today of a future Free Trade Agreement between the UK and the EU means Ireland must step up its efforts to access non-UK markets.

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, has today confirmed that the future UK-EU trading relationship will be covered by a new Free Trade Agreement, FTA, and that this will mean more complicated trading relations.

Tusk was speaking as the EU released its Brexit negotiating guidelines, and was in part responding to Prime Minister May’s Brexit speech on Friday.

Deputy Donnelly said, “President Tusk has confirmed on-going cooperation between the EU and UK on security and aviation, and said the UK could retain access to EU programmes in research and innovation, education and culture. However, when it comes to trade, which affects hundreds of thousands of jobs in Ireland, Tusk said that a new FTA would be required and specifically referenced Canada as a model.

“A trading relationship between Ireland and the UK that resembles the one we have with Canada could be disastrous for many Irish businesses. President Tusk has confirmed that trade will become less smooth, would not be frictionless, and would in fact see the EU and the UK drift apart. That means higher costs and falling competitiveness for Irish businesses trading with the UK. That put tens of thousands of jobs at risk in Ireland, and requires a comprehensive response.

“The Government keeps insisting that it’s doing all it can to prepare for this hard Brexit. It’s not. Only 6% of SMEs have a formal Brexit plan in place, that’s the reality on the ground. The Government should be actively involved in promoting an EU-wide Brexit adaptation fund. It should be ramping up in-market supports for SMEs, and proactively helping them develop products and services suitable for non-UK markets. There needs to be serious investment in languages, supply chains, currency hedging, marketing, and much more.

“Unfortunately, domestic preparations have followed a clear pattern of incompetence from Government when it comes to implementation – be it in housing, water, health, justice reform, broadband or in this case, Brexit.”