News & Events

Tánaiste welcomes Agreement on the future relationship with the UK

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar TD, has welcomed the Agreement struck between the EU and the UK following the conclusion of very intensive negotiations.

“Today is a very good day for the EU. We now have a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. It finally brings clarity and certainty for businesses and citizens and lays out the framework for our new trading relationship with the UK.

“Four years ago when the UK voted to leave, we feared that a ‘no deal’ could result in a hard border between North and South, an end to the Common Travel Area with Britain, that it could threaten the Good Friday Agreement, our position in the EU single market, disrupt aviation and haulage, and result in quotas and tariffs on our farmers, businesses and exporters. Years of hard work and diplomacy have protected Ireland from all of that. Thank you to our friends in Europe and our spectacular civil servants in Dublin and Brussels.

“We have the best deal possible after four years of tough negotiations. It builds on the Irish Protocol negotiated in The Wirral, which guarantees the Common Travel Area and no hard border in Ireland. It’s a sad but momentous day.

“The deal is particularly welcome for businesses in Ireland and is a reprieve from the unrelenting challenges they have faced in dealing with COVID-19. It leaves us in a better place in the EU and the UK, to plan our recovery. It will come as a relief to our farmers, industry and exporters. There will be no tariffs and no quotas. 

“For aviation and energy, the new arrangement is close to the status quo, and for transport and haulage there are special arrangements around cabotage. The level playing field is secured. The UK will have to match EU standards to maintain full access to the EU market.

“Hopefully the deal can be ratified by the European Parliament by New Year, but Brexit will never be ‘done’. There will need to be future agreements and disputes that arise that will have to be resolved.

“It’s important to acknowledge former Taoiseach Enda Kenny for the role he played in the first weeks and months of Brexit, and of course our officials in Dublin and Brussels.

“A Free Trade Agreement avoids the significant harm that would arise from WTO trade terms, but there will still be significant change. Deal or no deal, businesses will have to manage customs arrangements and SPS checks from 1 January and there will still be implications for supply chains and product certification.  

“We have a large number of Brexit supports including planning vouchers, consultancy and mentoring supports, the EI Ready for Customs Grant of up to €9,000, as well as financial supports for adapting and restructuring business models and grants for research into new markets.

“Budget 2021 provided contingency funding for COVID-19 and for all Brexit outcomes and the Government is committed to assisting firms in responding to Brexit, especially those firms that are in more severely impacted sectors.

“I want to compliment the fortitude and determination of businesses in Ireland and elsewhere throughout 2020. The deal provides new certainty for businesses to finalise their preparations for 1 January.

“I want to thank Michel Barnier and his negotiating team for working tirelessly and with tenacity to get the Agreement across the line, and to our fellow EU Member States who understood Ireland’s unique geographic, economic and political interests throughout these negotiations.”

The Tánaiste, together with Minister Robert Troy and Minister Damien English will work intensively now with stakeholders to ensure that the terms of the Agreement are widely understood, and that exporters, importers and consumers continue to adjust to our new EU-UK and IE-UK relationships.

Welcoming the Agreement, Minister for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation Robert Troy T.D. said, “For many years, we have been working intensively with exporters to find new markets and this work will be further strengthened now. As Minister for Trade Promotion, I look forward to intensifying these efforts and making 2021 the year of trade promotion. The UK will remain a key market for firms, but we will seek to work with firms to grow their exports in existing markets and to enter new markets.

“For exporters at each stage of the exporting journey, Enterprise Ireland has targeted programmes and expanded overseas network of offices and is ready to work with firms on the ground in developing new markets. I will work with our agencies and embassies across the globe to build and support the development of a robust network of trading markets for Irish businesses to diversify into.”

Minister for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English T.D. extended his sincere thanks to producers, retailers and the logistics sector for working so closely with Government and through the Retail Forum to ensure that any disruption that Brexit might pose for our supply chains is minimised.  “I am determined to continue that engagement, especially in the coming days and weeks as firms get to grips with new procedures, certification requirements and controls and checks when importing and exporting to the UK, and via the UK landbridge.”


Notes to Editor

Further information

The text of the Agreement runs to 2,000 pages and will require time to analyse in detail, but the Union’s objectives set have been delivered. Businesses will not have to worry about costly tariffs and quotas on goods. This is vitally important for the agri-food sector in particular, which would otherwise have faced very significant additional costs and barriers in trading with the UK.  

The Agreement will preserve the flow of trade and services with the inclusion of critical elements in energy, public procurement and services.  It also contains welcome arrangements on road haulage, cross border bus services, rail, sea and air transport – all of which are vital for the easy movement of people, and delivery of goods and services.

The Agreement also provides for continuity in many areas of financial services and services in general, supported by a temporary bridging arrangement for data transfer and data protection.

There will undoubtedly be real disappointment in relation to fisheries, but it was a very significant achievement for the Union to deliver the level of protection in the Agreement relative to the UK demands, and we are ready to engage with the industry and coastal communities.