Irish premier Micheal Martin has said he is hopeful that the outline of a Brexit deal can be reached by the end of the week.
He said at a briefing of EU prime ministers last week European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had provided one of the more “hopeful presentations made to date”.
Speaking to reporters from Dublin Port on Monday, the Taoiseach was upbeat about the prospects of a deal.
He said: “A deal is necessary, and a deal is in the best interest of the United Kingdom, of Ireland and of the European Union.
“The fact is that engagement has continued, and it’s fair to say the engagement has been of an intensive nature now for some weeks.
“President Ursula von der Leyen did say to the EU leaders last Thursday night that there are texts now on all areas.
“I would be hopeful that by the end of this week we could see the outline of a deal.
“That remains to be seen.
“It’s down to political will, both in the United Kingdom, I’m clear the political will is there in the European Union.
“One must remain hopeful that a deal can be arrived at.
“It’s very important that it happens.
“It’s important for jobs and for all of those who are in business, that they can look forward in terms of their futures.
“A deal makes far greater sense for jobs and for the respective economies of all involved.”
He added: “I do sense that both negotiating teams, they’ve made progress, that’s the point.
“I think the presentation made last week by the President of the Commission was probably one of the more hopeful presentations made to date.
“Therefore one has to remain hopeful that they can pull one off.”
Very impressive work undertaken by @RevenueIE@agriculture_ie@Dept_Transport@roinnslainte@opwireland@HSELive at @DublinPortCo to get ready for Brexit. I’m appealing to small & medium businesses to make sure they are Brexit ready. More info here 👉🏻 https://t.co/VLHbMp13uzpic.twitter.com/7iKYsFWhCN
— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) November 23, 2020
Mr Martin was speaking from Dublin Port, which he visited on Monday to assess preparations for Brexit.
The Taoiseach said Brexit would be “the most significant fundamental change in our economic narrative in over 50 years.”
Over 1,500 extra people have been hired to work in customs, with customs declarations set to increase from an average of 1.5 million per year to around 20 million per year.
Mr Martin admitted that the added burden on the customs system will have a negative impact on traffic congestion in Dublin.
He said: “That which ordinarily went through here seamlessly will not go through seamlessly now.
“The aim of all of our preparation is to make it as fast as we possibly can.”
He added: “We can deal with it.
“We’ve built up capacity very quickly and we’re continuing to work to increase capacity here at Dublin Port.
“But the world will change and it will not be as seamless as it once was.”
Mr Martin also raised concerns that Irish businesses, particularly smaller SMEs, were not prepared for the changes that are coming.
He ruled any possibility of a grace period for businesses after the UK leaves the European Union on January 1.
He said: “The bottom line is you need to get ready.
“That concern has been shared with me this morning in terms of preparation and readiness.
“There is still time for people to get ready.
“The deadline is January 1 because the UK will be outside of the customs union and outside of the single market.
“That’s the bottom line.
“It will be a third country in the context of the European Union.
“People just need to knuckle down now.
“If you work with the State agencies you will get a lot of assistance.”
Mr Martin also spoke of the need to rebuild trust between the UK and the EU after it officially leaves the European bloc.
“Once we get a deal agreed, I think that will allow for a degree of settling down, a building of trust.
“We owe it to the people we represent to do that,” he said.