Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Brexit Stephen Donnelly TD has welcomed President Donald Tusk’s clear commitment today to ensuring no hard border on the island of Ireland.

However, he has warned that the upcoming new Free Trade Agreement could well impose new barriers to trade between Ireland and Britain, and that Ireland must step up its preparations.

On the border, President Tusk stated that ”if in London someone assumes that the negotiations will deal with other issues first my response would be Ireland first.” He went on to detail the high level of support for the border issue across the EU.

However, he was also very clear on the limitations of any new Free Trade Agreement between the UK and EU. He made it clear that the UK’s desire to include Financial Services would not be countenanced by the EU. And while to referenced a desire for zero tariffs and no limitations on quantities of goods traded, President Tusk explained why that same offer could not be made in services.

Deputy Donnelly commented, “President Tusk’s strong support for Ireland today is very welcome. It is imperative, in the coming months of negotiations, that the absolute requirement for no border controls is maintained.

“Recent commentary in the UK, about the US – Canada border being a source of inspiration for the Northern Ireland border, is very worrying. Particularly when such commentary includes the UK Prime Minister. There may be some in the UK who would like to push out the issue of the border, and leave it unresolved while the trade talks progress, but this should not be countenanced.

“At the same time, President Tusk, both today in Ireland and yesterday in Luxembourg, has made it clear that trade between the UK and the EU will become more complex. That means additional costs and reduced competitiveness for Irish firms trading with the UK. And that means the potential loss of many jobs across Ireland.

“We must work with our EU partners to help craft as close a future economic relationship as possible between the EU and the UK. But at the same time we must recognise the urgent imperative to gain market share in non-UK markets. This won’t happen on its own, as evidenced by recent data showing that only 6% of Irish SMEs have a Brexit plan in place. In terms of domestic industrial preparedness, the Irish government continues to be asleep at the wheel. It’s time to wake up.”