Brexit transition period may last four years, Coveney says

The Minister expressed frustration at the lack of progress made on some Irish issues

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney speaking to the media ahead of the All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit at Royal Hospital Kilmainham on Thursday. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney speaking to the media ahead of the All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit at Royal Hospital Kilmainham on Thursday. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has claimed the Brexit transition period may take as long as four years.

Speaking at All-Island Civic Dialogue, Mr Coveney expressed doubt that a two-year transition period would be sufficient.

The Minister said: “It cannot go on forever. When we get to the point of negotiation a transition arrangement we will be taking about a period of two and four years.”

British prime minister Theresa May has proposed delaying a full Brexit until 2021 by asking EU countries to agree to a two-year transition period. The European Union chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has failed to support the proposal.

Mr Coveney said the European Union was anxious to deal with the first phase of discussions before considering the transition period.

Britain may be eager to move on to phase two issues but the EU is determined to stick to the arrangement agreed at the outset of the negotiations, the Minister added.

He said: “When the time comes, the European Union is open to discussing that (transition period) but there is no formal position from the EU yet.”

The All-Island Civic Dialogue was attended by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, senior political figures and business leaders.

Mr Varadkar and Mr Coveney expressed frustration at the lack of progress made on some of the issues so far including Irish issues; citizens’ rights and the financial settlement.

The Taoiseach said: “While prime minister May’s speech last week in Florence was welcome, it does not yet bring us to where we need to be. We need to get into the detail if we are to be able to agree that real progress is being made.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin re-iterated his belief that Northern Ireland and the border counties should be defined as a special economic zone.

Mr Martin said this would allow for Northern Ireland to access the single market and to have freedom of movement.

Speaking to reporters in Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Mr Martin admitted this would advantage to Northern Ireland ahead of other areas in the United Kingdom.

He added: “ It would not be disproportionate. The impact of the Northern Ireland economy on the rest of the United Kingdom would not be that dramatic in terms of the overall GDP of Great Britain.

“It is a unique solution that recognises the fact that Northern Ireland is a special case that requires special approaches. That is the essence of the Good Friday agreement.”