He warned that if there is a significant difference between the current trading environment and the trading arrangements post-Brexit, we will need a number of years to allow businesses to adapt to that change.
“We need time, too, to negotiate the detail of a new trade deal,” he said.
While Mr Coveney said nothing in the guidelines commits the EU to a specific time period, he believes it will be part of talks early next year.
Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath told the Dáil that, given the vastly different interpretations of the deal, “we must accept that the most difficult Brexit negotiations are still ahead of us”.
Mr McGrath said: “It is generally accepted that there is less than a year to agree a transition agreement and the framework of a future relationship. Given the level of complexity involved across different sectors and the amount of detail that must be worked out as part of that process, two years is nowhere near adequate or realistic.”
Mr Coveney agreed that the transition period may take longer than two years.
“The Government and I believe that the longer the transition period, the better,” he said. “That period will need to be closer to four or five years than two years. If the UK wants to negotiate a Canada-style free trade agreement, it will take a number of years.”
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald also questioned Mr Coveney on the legal standing of the agreement reached between the UK and EU last week.
He said the commitments between British prime minister Theresa May and EU negotiators are “cast-iron”.