Irish PM ‘hopeful’ Boris Johnson can strike final EU deal as Brexit ‘endgame’ approaches
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The UK will leave the EU on January 1, with Michel Barnier and David Frost, the EU and UK Brexit negotiators, holding last minute trade talks this week to strike a deal. Mr Martin has stated a free trade deal is possible between the two in an interview. But European leaders and officials have poured cold water on hopes the UK will walk away with a deal, stating time is “running out’.
Speaking to the Irish Times, Ireland’s Prime Minister said talks between Britain and the EU have reached their “endgame”.
Mr Martin added: “It will require political will to conclude the deal and there are options to conclude the deal, and so on balance, I would be hopeful that it can be done at the end of this week.”
Mr Martin and Boris Johnson also spoke on Friday to discuss the Brexit negotiations, with the British Prime Minister “underlining his commitment to reaching a deal that respects the sovereignty of the UK”.
Mr Johnson and Mr Martin also spoke of the importance of the Good Friday Agreement and of prioritising the avoidance of a hard border with Ireland, as per a Downing Street spokesperson.
But the Irish Prime Minister has also expressed similar hopes for a deal last week to no avail, as significant issues remain between the UK and EU.
Simon Coveney, Irish foreign minister, has warned the UK and EU that “we are running out of time here”.
He added a no-deal Brexit would be “so costly and so disruptive, particularly for the UK and for Northern Ireland, but for the Republic of Ireland as well”.
Mr Coveney also stressed that an agreement between the UK and EU would need to be “finalised this week if possible”.
An EU source said to Sky News that “massive divergences” remain between the UK and the trading bloc.
Talks have been deadlocked over fishing rights in British waters and state aid rules.
In a warning to Mr Johnson and the UK, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said EU members were losing patience with the negotiations.
She said: “We hope that the negotiations will have a good end.
“We don’t need a deal at any price and we have made this clear… A deal is in everyone’s interest.”
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A Downing Street spokesperson said while there had been some progress in negotiations, “there still remains divergence on issues [such as] fisheries and the level playing field”.
They added: “We want to try and reach a free trade agreement as soon as possible but we’ve been clear we won’t change our negotiating position.”
But Mr Barnier has claimed Mr Johnson agreed to keep the UK broadly aligned with the EU’s human rights rules.
He said to MEPs, according to a leaked transcript: “We are almost in agreement on judicial and police co-operation.
“The British have accepted the prerequisites that we put down on the European Convention on Human Rights. We can now finalise those points.”
At the start of this month, Mr Martin admitted Ireland would suffer the worst from a no-deal Brexit.
He said: “Nobody wants a no deal, though we cannot rule it out and, in fact, we formulated our budget earlier this month for the eventuality of no deal.
“However, Ireland would be the biggest loser in a no deal. The United Kingdom would be a huge loser as well.
“It makes no sense, really, to have no deal. It makes no sense to anybody. I’m hopeful that we will get a deal”.
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