Delaying Brexit for three months would need to end deadlock – McEntee

Minister says EU would not support article 50 extension if it prolonged the uncertainty

Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee. File photo. Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee. File photo. Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne

 

The EU Commission would consider a three-month delay to Brexit only if it breaks the deadlock over a divorce deal, Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee has said.

The Minister made her remarks to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Union Affairs as she reported back the views of the commission and fellow EU ministers on Brexit from her attendance the General Affairs Council meeting of EU ministers in Brussels on Tuesday.

While she acknowledged British prime minister Theresa May has said she was not going to seek an extension to the article 50 Brexit process, Ms McEntee said the Government has always said it would look upon it favourably if the UK requested a delay beyond the scheduled March 29th exit date.

“Our EU colleagues and the commission would want to know that there is a reason as to why there is going to be an extension and obviously that we are not going to end up in the same place in three months’ time, prolonging the uncertainty for so many businesses and people,” she said.

The UK would require the unanimous approval of the 27 other EU member states to extend.

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Preparations

The Minister said the Government was preparing at the country’s ports but could not plan for continued ease of transit for Irish hauliers using the cheaper and quicker UK landbridge route to mainland Europe.

“What we cannot predict, and what we don’t know, is in terms of those who continue through the landbridge and the UK as to what the impact will be on them,” she said.

The Government had been in talks with the French and Belgian authorities to guarantee fast-track passage through ports for Irish hauliers post-Brexit.

“We have no such commitment or communication in terms of the UK and I would find it very difficult to believe that Irish hauliers would have a quicker pass [through] the Channel Tunnel than the UK hauliers. That is one of the biggest challenges we face,” she said.

Meanwhile, Siobhán Talbot, chief executive of Glanbia, one of the country’s largest food producers, supported calls from Irish farmers and meat producers asking the Government and EU to provide financial aid to support the industry in the event of the UK imposing tariffs on Irish exports.

Ireland has a great farming base and I would agree with the view that the Government and EU need to support Irish farmers because it could be very disruptive,” she said.

“It’s very difficult to know the scale of that until we know what we are planning for.”

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