Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said Government preparedness for Brexit is well advanced.

He is giving an update on negotiations and answering questions at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Union Affairs.

Mr Coveney said the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2020 is complex with 21 parts and will come before the Oireachtas in the coming weeks.

He said the range of ministers involved shows how big the bill is and how wide ranging it is.

Mr Coveney said that in terms of the negotiations between EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier's taskforce and UK team led by David Frost, it is pretty clear at this stage there are major obstacles to get a very basic trade deal.

The ambition last year in terms of the political declaration was to have a partnership. 

"It is quite clear we are not going to get a permanent and comprehensive agreement on a future relationship," he said. 

One obstacle is around the level playing field declarations, which he said was now almost a toxic term in Westminster "a bit like the backstop" .

He said Mr Barnier was right not to move the negotiations into the next so-called 'tunnel' stage because he said without a model in place to deal with any disputes, the potential is there for a future British govt to decide to de-regulate its own market and create its own rules around competitive advantage.

He said fisheries is another issue and that the hope was to get an agreement by summer - he said the position on fishing has hardened on both sides. 

Mr Coveney said there is no justification for the UK's Internal Market Bill 

He said he felt it is something that has backfired not only in the UK but 'further afield as well'.

He said the British government's upcoming Finance Bill  it would give a British minister the final say on what would be on a "goods at risk" list which he said would be a "complete breach" of the protocol and of International law.

"If the Finance Bill is introduced with that provision in it, I think many in the EU will see it as an indication that the British Government simply doesn't want a deal," he said.

Mr Coveney said he thinks there will be "significant resistance" to the UK's Internal Markets Bill in the British House of Lords.

He said he sees Britain as a country that upholds international law.   

He said there is legal expertise in the House of Lords that will delve into this in some detail, and that he thinks the legislation will get a "rough ride" through the Lords but was clear he did not want to predict the outcome.

Mr Coveney, meanwhile, said in the last number of weeks the Revenue Commissioners have written to around 90,000 businesses, followed up with 15,000 phone calls to give a Brexit 'check list'.

He said the bulk of trade companies who are involved in import and export to the UK markets are gearing up for what may come - he said 96% of Irish companies who export to the UK have registered with around 94% of those who import from the UK have registered for their EORI numbers.

In terms of preparedness, he said there are no extensions being discussions and the only question being asked is are we ready for it. 

He said there in terms of physical infrastructure at Northern Ireland's ports,  Minister Coveney said the work has been left 'terribly late'  compared to the work being done at Ireland's ports.

He said Dublin port will be ready by 1 January in terms of facilities including animal checks, cold storage, inspection bays.

Mr Coveney said he hoped the North's ports would be ready by the end of the year but he suspected it would "temporary arrangements".

Asked by Labour TD Brendan Howlin about ferry freight capacity in the event of a no deal and the land bridge of the UK not being used, Mr Coveney said he understands routes including Dublin Port, Waterford, Rosslare, are operating at 40% capacity so that if needed, it is there.

He said a daily service between Rosslare and a major French port would be helpful, but that while the Government has intervened somewhat whether they would subsidise new routes is not something he thought would be helpful.

Continuing to take questions from members of the Committee on European Union Affairs, and particularly on the fisheries part of the Brexit negotiations, Mr Coveney said the mandate Mr Barnier has is a very tight one in terms of shared stock.
He said the UK has made promises to their fishing industry in terms of increased access to catch numbers which he said creates a very difficult negotiation and something that is very difficult to envisage.

Mr Coveney said it is a big obstacle and that the British government should not underestimate the strength of feeling around fisheries; particularly he said those Atlantic countries like Ireland, Spain, Portugal and France and Nordic countries.

Mr Coveney said most of the fish caught in Scottish waters are mackerel that spawned off Galway so it is "ridiculous" to draw a line and say the fish that swim on this side are ours and on that side are yours.  

He said nobody owns the stock, it is a transitory stock that moves between territories.