UK withdrawal from EU could take five years, Coveney says

Minister tells Dail it is not realistic to expect a new trade arrangement in full by October

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney: Nothing that commits the EU to a specific Brexit time period. Photograph: The Irish Times

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney: Nothing that commits the EU to a specific Brexit time period. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

The United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU could take four to five years, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said.

He told the Dáil on Thursday: “There is nothing in the guidelines that commits the EU to a specific time period, although there is a recognition that the EU has requested around two years,’’ he added.

“But I think that will be part of the discussions early next year.’’

The Minister said any expectation the full detail of any new trade partnership or arrangement would be included in full next October or November, as was suggested, was simply not realistic in his view.

“What is possible by next October is to have a framework agreement within which we are setting the parameters for a new trading environment between the UK and the EU,’’ he added.

Mr Coveney said the Government’s position was it wanted any deal to deliver as close to the current status quo as possible, with no barriers to trade between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

The Minister was replying to Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath and Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald.

Mr McGrath said the embarrassing defeat for the UK government in the House of Commons this week probably meant the time frame for agreeing a deal was compressed even further.

The most difficult Brexit negotiations were ahead, he added.

With the United Kingdom set to leave the EU in a little over 15 months, the imperative over the coming months would be to achieve as much certainty as possible for Irish businesses.

Ms McDonald said her party had cautioned that the commitments agreed in Brussels last week were not legally binding and that the Government needed to be very careful in its dealings with the Tory government.