Daniel Mulhall, Ireland’s ambassador to the U.S., has said negotiations between the UK and the EU over Brexit are “now at halftime.”

The United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union began on Jan.31 with Britain’s formal withdrawal.

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Mulhall, who has been ambassador to the U.S. since 2017 and is based in Washington, made the comments about Brexit during the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce monthly breakfast event last week at The Breakers.

“We don’t know what the outcome of the UK and EU negotiations will be,” said Mulhall. “For me anyway, we are now at halftime when it comes to the Brexit process.

“If the UK remains closely aligned with the EU in economic and trade terms, that minimizes the impact. A bad outcome would be if the UK were to diverge significantly from the EU. That would create potential barriers.”

Daniel Mulhall, Ireland's ambassador to the US. Credit: Getty Images

Daniel Mulhall, Ireland's ambassador to the US. Credit: Getty Images

The next phase of Brexit negotiations is expected to last until at least the end of this year, The Palm Beach Post reports.

“It’s a matter for the British to decide. They have left. For us, the big achievement was to get a guarantee from the British government and the EU that there would never be a hard border on the island of Ireland,” Mulhall said.

He added: “The border is invisible at the moment. People move across freely. There are no border checks of any kind.”

Speaking of the potential economic impact of Brexit, Mullhall said: “The stakes are pretty high for us. There could be economic damage sustained by Ireland if the economic negotiations do not go well. Any barriers to trade would be quite damaging.

“Britain is our second largest export market after the United States. We are their fourth biggest export market. Economically, we are closely aligned with each other.”

On the positive side, Ireland is now the EU’s only English-speaking country, which will make it attractive to companies from the U.S., said Mullhall.

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“Our people estimate that 90 companies have moved to Ireland from Britain because of Brexit,” Mulhall said. “We expect that number to increase as the realities of Brexit begin to sink in.”

Mulhall was also in Palm Beach last week to attend a gala celebrating The Ireland Funds' 30th anniversary and to speak at a luncheon as part of the Ireland-US Council’s Winter Meeting.