Brexit trade deal is more likely than less likely, Taoiseach says

ireland
Coronavirus – Tue Dec 22, 2020, © PA Media
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By James Ward, PA

The Taoiseach has said he believes a Brexit deal is “more likely than less likely”.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Micheál Martin said he was hopeful that an agreement can be reached before Christmas.

However, he said the outstanding issues on fisheries are proving “very difficult” to overcome.

He said: “A lot of progress was made in the last month,  particularly in the last two weeks in relation to the level playing field and the dispute resolution mechanism.

“It is fair to say that fisheries is proving to be very, very difficult and we have a number of member states that we’re all aligned to that are fighting to protect our fisheries.

“The sense I would have is that given the progress that has been made, that I think a deal is more likely than less likely.”

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He added: “I would like to see it happening before Christmas, it could go beyond Christmas Day. There are political factors at play.”

Mr Martin said that Ireland, along with other EU member states, had a duty to protect their fishing communities into the future.

He added: “The agreement that’s worked on should be one that is sustainable into the future and is not subject to annual acrimony in terms of annual negotiations for fishing stocks and so on.

“So it’s not just about this year, Whatever happens this year could govern quotas for the next 10, 15, 20 years and that’s significant in terms of our fishing industry.”

He added: ““There are a range of issues on the fishing issue, it’s not just the percentage share.

“There’s a transition timeline, length of time for a transition period after the deal is done so there are a number of ways of dealing with the issue.”

Mr Martin was also asked about the current congestion seen at Kent, a result of France’s decision to stop hauliers using the Channel crossing due to the coronavirus.

Freight lorries lined up at the front of the queue on the runway at Manston Airport, Kent (PA)

Put to him that it could focus minds in the British government on the importance of securing a deal, he replied that an agreement must be reached in “an honourable way.”

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He added: “It’s very important that Britain and Europe work well together into the future, not just on trade, but aviation, energy, security, judicial cooperation, geopolitical issues. Britain has to be a valued partner of the EU.”

He said the current border chaos in Britain has highlighted the need for Ireland to have alternative trade routes, other than the UK land bridge.

“It does point to us the necessity to have alternative routes and capacity on alternative routes and notwithstanding whether we get a deal or not.

“If we get a deal for example there could still be significant disruption of the landbridge, and that’s a concern” he said.

He said Ireland, the EU and the UK owe it to their citizens to secure a trade deal.

“I’ve always said consistently that a no-deal makes no sense, and would be a failure of statecraft.

“There has to be common sense between all of us – UK, Ireland, and the EU – we owe it to our citizens.

“Why would we visit the second seismic shock on our people in the aftermath of Covid? It would be a terrible thing to do.”

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