Speaking this morning at the Ibec Business Leaders Conference 2019 in The Convention Centre Dublin, Matheson Managing Partner Michael Jackson commented; “The continuing uncertainty about the direction of the Brexit process is very concerning for the business community.”

We have heard some sobering assessments recently on the impact of a “no deal” exit on 29 March. As the Tánaiste said on Friday, this would be a “lose, lose, lose” outcome – for Ireland, for the UK, and for the European Union. Notwithstanding the developments of recent days, that no deal scenario remains a serious danger.

While we would all welcome the certainty that agreement on a deal would bring; I think that we can equally agree that an extension to the Article 50 process would be preferable to a “no deal” scenario.

While there is increasing speculation about such an extension, it is essential that it be agreed in good time for the necessary legislative measures to be enacted in London.

Secondly, any extension can’t be just to allow the current process – which is not producing any tangible progress - to continue. An extension must have a clear and agreed purpose. Otherwise, it will create ongoing uncertainty.”

That purpose must, in my view, be to focus, not on the terms of withdrawal, but on the future EU-UK relationship and to advance those negotiations to the point where it is becomes clear that the Border Backstop will never need to be invoked."

"The challenge of reaching agreement should not be underestimated. It will arguably be even more difficult as the EU procedure for negotiating trade agreements will mean that national interests and national priorities can become major factors. This is borne out in the history of previous trade negotiations. In fact, the role of the Parliament of Wallonia in delaying the EU / Canada CETA Agreement reminds us that even regional political issues can create problems."

"The focus of all involved over the coming days and weeks must be to agree a mechanism to avoid a no deal exit."