Brexit: Wednesday set as final deadline for negotiations

ireland
Brexit: Wednesday Set As Final Deadline For Negotiations Brexit: Wednesday Set As Final Deadline For Negotiations
Michel Barnier is said to have given a 'downbeat' and 'gloomy' assessment of progress in the negotiations. Photo: Peter Summers/Getty Images.
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Wednesday has emerged as the European Union (EU)'s deadline for Brexit trade negotiations.

Michel Barnier told MEPs that talks on a post-Brexit trade deal could go until Wednesday, but no further.

The EU’s chief negotiator is said to have given a “downbeat” and “gloomy” assessment of progress in reaching a deal between the EU and UK following a weekend of tense talks.

He updated ambassadors from the 27 member states on the state of play on Monday morning ahead of a resumption of discussions in Brussels with his UK counterpart, David Frost.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will speak this evening as a breakthrough eludes negotiators.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney told RTÉ: “Having heard from Michel Barnier this morning, really the news is very downbeat. I would say he is very gloomy, and obviously very cautious about the ability to make progress today.

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“There was news last night on some media sources that there was a breakthrough on fishing. That is absolutely not the case from what we’re hearing this morning.”

Mr Coveney said there was “no progress made” on Sunday and that the negotiations “seem stalled” with barriers to progress “very much in place”.

But he added: “There is still time. Lunchtime seems a long way away now, given the intensity of these discussions, but that’s where we are, and anyone who is briefing that there are breakthroughs in either of these two big areas … I don’t think is accurate.”

'Significant failure'

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said it would be a “significant failure” if no Brexit deal was agreed.

Speaking to reporters in Cork, he said: “Overall, I think it is in the best interests of all concerned that a proper trade deal is agreed.

“Our respective economies would suffer, unnecessarily in my view, in the event of a no-deal.

“A deal can be arrived at. It would be a significant failure if we were to end up with no deal.”

Mairead McGuinness, the EU financial services commissioner, said talks were not looking good unless Britain understands the need to compromise on the three key outstanding issues.

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“No, it's not looking good and the reason it's not looking good is that the UK are failing to understand the significance of the three outstanding issues and the need for the UK to compromise,” Ms McGuinness told RTÉ.

“I would hope that in that meeting [later on Monday between UK and EU leaders], there will be a report from the negotiators of some progress. Any progress would be a positive move on any of the three issues to allow us then to go on to tomorrow.”

Westminster legislation

In a move viewed as unhelpful by Brussels and Dublin, Boris Johnson will on Monday ask members of parliament to vote for controversial legislative clauses that would allow ministers to renege on the Brexit withdrawal agreement signed with the EU last year.

Mr Coveney said it would be “crazy” if the UK concluded a trade deal with the EU this week and then passed legislation that prevented it being ratified.

“Flexing muscles in Westminster may play well in terms of domestic politics in the UK but I think it has undermined trust with the EU,” the Minister told The Irish Times.

“I still think it is more likely than not that we will find a way to getting a deal done but I won’t be shocked if it falls apart,” Mr Coveney said en route to Brussels on Sunday night.

On Sunday the Taoiseach put the chances of a deal at “50-50” but stressed “an agreement is in everyone’s best interests”.

Meanwhile, British cabinet office minister Michael Gove will meet his counterpart on the UK-EU joint committee in Brussels on Monday, the UK government said.

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A spokesman said: “The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will meet vice president [Maros] Sefcovic today in Brussels to discuss issues related to their work as co-chairs of the Withdrawal Agreement joint committee.

“The Withdrawal Agreement joint committee oversees UK and EU implementation, application and interpretation of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“The work of the joint committee is separate from the ongoing FTA negotiations.”

Mr Barnier is due to continue talks with Mr Frost and their teams through the day on Monday before an afternoon call between Ms von der Leyen, and Mr Johnson. – Additional reporting: Reuters, PA

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