Posted on Nov 15, 2020
There has to be a breakthrough this week on a post-Brexit trade agreement, British and Irish ministers said on Sunday, as London’s top negotiator David Frost went back into talks saying progress had been made in recent days, Reuters reports.
Without a deal, around $1 trillion worth of trade would be at risk of disruption through tariffs and tougher rules after Britain’s transition period for leaving the EU ends on December 31st.
“This needs to be a week when things move, when we break through some of these difficult issues and get a resolution and at least have some sort of headlines, if you like, of an agreement,” British environment secretary George Eustice told Sky News on Sunday.
“We have got to make big progress this week,” Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney told Sky. “This is very difficult but it is also very doable.”
The negotiations have already missed several deadlines and remain stuck on issues such as fishing quotas, state aid rules and how to settle future disputes, however both sides have agreed, albeit not for the first time, that there can be no further extensions.
Britain’s top Brexit negotiator said “some progress in a positive direction” had been made in recent days, as he arrived in Brussels to meet his opposite number Michel Barnier.
Coveney called for compromise from London on fisheries, and on legislation for trade between British-ruled Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
“There’s no way the EU will agree to ratify a new agreement if the British government is breaking the existing agreement that’s not even 12 months old and breaking international law by doing that," he said, referencing the UK's threat to renege on certain aspects of the current agreement.
Downing Street has insisted it will press on in the Commons with elements of the proposed legislation that would allow the Government to break international law despite the House of Lords voting against them in recent days.
During the last week or so there have been two significant changes in the dynamics surrounding the trade-talks.
The election of pro-Irish Republican Joe Biden ( pictured right with Sinn Fein/IRA leader Gerry Adams) to the US presidency, and the removal of Boris Johnson’s senior advisor Dominic Cummings from the equation, the latter happening on Friday of last week.
Both will give heart to the European Commission and to the Irish Republic, and the departure from Downing Street of the Svengali-like figure of Cummings may open up room for manoeuvre in London. As one one senior British conservative figure is reported as saying "Gosh, maybe we will now get to actually fulfil our roles as Cabinet ministers."
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