THE Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney TD joined the British Irish Chamber of Commerce and Ulster Bank for a virtual conference to urge Irish businesses to prepare for Brexit without delay while also identifying new opportunities to grow UK-Ireland trade.
With less than 50 days until the end of the Brexit transition period on 31st December and post-Brexit trade negotiations continuing, business leaders from both sides of the Irish Sea were provided with an update on EU-UK trade negotiations by Minister Coveney.
In his remarks, the British Ambassador to Ireland Paul Johnston outlined how the UK and Ireland would remain important trading partners in 2021 and beyond. While Brexit may challenge certain aspects of the trading relationship, the British Irish Chamber of Commerce has always advocated that it should not be allowed to diminish it.
The webinar, entitled, ‘Deal or No Deal: We’ve Always Traded and We Always Will’, also saw speakers from Ulster Bank, Enterprise Ireland, the UK Embassy and Littlewoods Ireland discuss long-term planning for businesses and the delivery of key policy measures that must be part of a Free Trade agreement, a prerequisite for a mutually beneficial relationship between Ireland and the UK.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and for Defence, Simon Coveney said: “Negotiations between the UK and the EU are now in their endgame. It is in everyone’s interest to do the limited trade deal that is possible in the time left. I urge all sides to make the final push that is necessary to secure a deal.
“However, trade deal or no trade deal, next January will bring the return of customs and new administrative requirements on any business that trades to, from or through the UK. All businesses need to activate their Brexit contingency plans without delay.
“Despite all the uncertainty that businesses have been facing, we are taking the measures we can as a government and with EU support to minimise the damage.”
Speaking at the webinar, Peter O’Shea, President of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce said: “We were delighted to host Minister Coveney and Ambassador Johnston who offered insights from the ongoing trade negotiations.
“While it is not certain that a deal can be reached, what is certain is that the UK and Ireland will now have a new trading relationship that will no longer be seamless. That is why it is now more important than ever that we protect businesses from the aftermath of a Brexit shock while ensuring we lay the foundations for future prosperity with our closest neighbour.
“Yesterday’s announcement that Ireland is to open a new consular office in Manchester is to be welcomed.
“Over the last number of years, the chamber has been developing trade links between Ireland and the north of England and I have no doubt that this announcement will set in motion further trade between Ireland and a region primmed with potential.”
Eddie Cullen, Managing Director, Commercial Banking, Ulster Bank, said: “At a key moment in the Brexit process the webinar provided the opportunity for an important discussion between business leaders and policymakers, allowing us all to explore the negotiations’ possible outcomes and the impact they may have on the way we support our customers.
“With the transition period deadline fast approaching, at Ulster Bank we are supporting our business customers every day to ensure they are ready for the weeks and months ahead, by working with them, listening to them, and lending to them.”