Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Brexit Stephen Donnelly TD has called on the Government to step up on Brexit, and provide a national response to a national challenge.

Deputy Donnelly said, “Today must be a wake-up call for the Government. Article 50 is being triggered, so its 729 days until the UK leaves the EU, and just 31 days until the EU27 Heads of State meet to agree the shape of the negotiation.

“The government should be reducing uncertainty on Brexit for Ireland. This includes seeking EU agreement for the ‘divorce’ talks and future relationship talks to begin at the same time, and for early agreement on a transition period to avoid a ‘cliff’ in two years.

“The government should be doing everything it can to protect jobs. This includes ramping up the paltry resources given so far to the State agencies to respond to Brexit.

“The government needs to be more active in protecting the interests of the citizens of Northern Ireland. This means seeking special status, including agreement that any future control on the flow of people, goods and services would be moved to the Irish Sea, allowing North South trade and movement continue unfettered.

“The UK is our largest trading partner, close political ally and co-guarantor of the Northern Ireland peace process. An Taoiseach described the Brexit negotiations as the most important in our history as an independent state. And yet the government response to date has been too little, too late. The Department of Finance estimates that a hard Brexit, which is what we’re now looking at, could result in 40,000 less jobs and an extra €20bn on our national debt.

“The stakes for Ireland are rising, with both the UK and EU talking up the prospect of a disorderly Brexit. If a ‘cliff’ is reached in two years, with no agreement in place for the on-going relationship between EU and UK, we are looking at enormous economic, political and social ramifications on the island of Ireland.

“The Taoiseach will lay out Ireland’s priorities to other EU Council members next month. And yet, with Article 50 triggered, we remain no clearer on how the Irish government hopes to shield the Irish economy from the shocks this event may cause. It’s no surprise that two thirds of the Irish public believe the government is clueless on Brexit.

“The clock is now ticking. Every day the government wastes increases uncertainty and the risk of job losses. Delay threatens livelihoods in several sectors including agri-food, fisheries and tourism. Delay threatens the economy of border communities. When these negotiations finish there will be no second chances to renegotiate, or to put forward Ireland’s unique position.

“We must be far stronger on protecting Irish jobs. The current allocations of just 4 staff to Bord Bia, 4 to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, and 9 to the IDA is a clear indication that the government is sleepwalking our economy into Brexit.

“And finally, we must strengthen our relationship with Northern Ireland. We must press for Special Status for the North. This includes ongoing access to the Single Market, EU sectoral programmes, EU citizenship, EU peace funding and full continued support for the peace process and Good Friday Agreement.

“If the government truly believes these are the most important negotiations in our history as an independent state, it’s time to start matching works with actions. A national challenge requires a national response.”