Comments made by EU Commissioner Pierre Moscovici in Davos, where he stated talks between the EU and the UK on a trade deal can only take place after the two year period for the Brexit withdrawal negotiations, are deeply concerning to Ireland, according to Fianna Fáil Spokesperson Michael McGrath.

Deputy McGrath added that the comments act as a sharp reminder of the need for the Irish Government to have a coherent and comprehensive plan in place to deal with Brexit.

“Commissioner Moscovici’s comments in Davos on the timing of a UK / EU trade deal and his remark that there can be no talks with the UK on customs until after the two year Article 50 process increase further the risk of a ‘hard Brexit’. Such a scenario will result in enormous negative economic consequences for Ireland. Given his role as EU Commissioner on Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, Commissioner Moscovici’s comments are highly significant and indeed alarming for Ireland.

“These comments come in the wake of British Prime Minister May’s confirmation that the UK will leave the EU Single Market and is open to leaving the Customs Union. The Department of Finance confirmed to me on Thursday at the Oireachtas Finance Committee that such a ‘hard Brexit’ could have extremely serious ramifications for Ireland. This includes a 3.5% drop in economic output over 5 years, a €20bn increase in our national debt, 40,000 job losses and a drop of one third in exports to the UK.

“While the EU’s Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has spoken about the possibility of a transitional deal on trade to be agreed within the Article 50 period, there are now different noises coming from the EU on this. The Irish government must be a forceful advocate of the need for agreement on a trade deal with the UK which comes into effect immediately on the UK’s exit from the EU. Given Mr Barnier’s observation that any deal with the UK on the terms of their EU exit would need to be agreed by October 2018 to allow for ratification by EU member states, the window of time is incredibly tight.

“The Irish government needs to wake up to the reality that a ‘hard Brexit’ with hugely damaging consequences for Ireland is now a distinct possibility. The Taoiseach and his team need to ensure that the EU is fully aware of how imperative it is that the terms of trade with the UK are agreed before the UK leaves the Single Market and Customs Union.”