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5 May, 2020 12:47

Irish FM warns of ‘crisis point’ ahead if trade talks between UK & EU don’t advance soon

Irish FM warns of ‘crisis point’ ahead if trade talks between UK & EU don’t advance soon

Progress on Brexit trade talks between the European Union and Britain has “not been good” and another “crisis point” could be reached within weeks if there is no improvement, Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has said.

Speaking to RTE Radio 1 on Tuesday, Coveney, who is also Ireland’s deputy PM, said “time is short” and there’s still “an awful lot to do” before the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.

“Progress has not been good in the couple of rounds of negotiations we've had,” Coveney said, adding that “of course there have been huge distractions for everybody in the context of Covid-19.”

Unless there is significant progress in those negotiating rounds then I think we are going to reach yet another crisis point in the Brexit negotiations.

The possibility of that happening as Ireland tries to reboot its economy following the Covid-19 crisis is “very, very serious,” he added. Coveney cautioned that there are only two rounds of negotiations left before a mid-summer assessment in July “and one of them is this week.”

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The Irish FM highlighted the fact that London and Brussels are still holding vastly different negotiating positions which was adding to the difficulties.

“The UK seems to want to pick the areas where they want a deal early and solely focus on those,” he said, adding that the EU “has made it very clear that's not an approach they can work with,” he said.

Following a meeting with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday, Coveney said on Twitter that implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol on Brexit was also “important to build trust” with the UK.

Under the Brexit deal, Northern Ireland is set to continue to follow EU single market rules while Britain will not. 

“In order to get a trade deal we need to know there's a level playing field so businesses in Ireland are not disadvantaged,” Coveney said.

London, meanwhile, has complained that the EU is trying to push it to accept measures tying the UK to European standards. 

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