Friday, 13 Dec 2019

Varadkar and Johnson meeting won't solve everything – Tánaiste

A meeting between the Taoiseach and British prime minister won’t bridge the massive gap between the two sides in the Brexit negotiations, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said.

Leo Varadkar and Boris Johnson have “a lot to discuss”, but will not be able to “solve everything” when they meet in the coming weeks.

In a clear indication that neither side has budged an inch in their stand-off over the backstop, Mr Coveney said: “I think the Irish position is very clear. I think the British government understands that.

“The EU position is also very clear. It is the same as the Irish position.

“Unfortunately, unless the British government changes their approach on Brexit we are facing managing a no-deal Brexit, which is going to put huge pressure on everybody.”

The UK is already talking up its chances of securing a trade deal with the United States as a way to compensate for falling out of the EU’s single market.

But Mr Johnson has said the “single biggest deal” to be done will be with Europe – although much focus in recent days has gone on talking to the Trump administration.

The British prime minister said he expects negotiating a post-Brexit trade deal with the US to be a “tough old haggle”, but that he is confident the UK “will get there”.

His remarks come after Donald Trump’s national security adviser said the UK would be “first in line” for a deal with the US, possibly on a gradual “sector-by-sector” basis.

Mr Johnson said: “Actually the US market is growing very fast for the UK, but they still ban haggis, for heaven’s sake.”

Speaking in Cork, Mr Coveney cast some doubt over whether a UK-US trade deal could be quickly negotiated if a disorderly Brexit is allowed to happen.

He said a number of “key politicians” whose support would be needed for a trade deal had said in “very strong language” that they want the Good Friday Agreement protected.

Also yesterday, Ireland’s European Commissioner Phil Hogan said that any new proposals from the UK on its future relationship with the EU will be given “appropriate consideration”. Mr Hogan was speaking after he reiterated to UK Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay in a phone call that the Withdrawal Agreement is not open for renegotiation.

Meanwhile, US Vice President Mike Pence is expected to visit Ireland on September 6 for a two-day visit. Preparations for the trip are ongoing but it is thought he will come to Ireland after trips to Iceland and Britain.

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