‘Last-minute hitch’ delaying Brexit deal announcement, Coveney says

ireland
‘Last-Minute Hitch’ Delaying Brexit Deal Announcement, Coveney Says
Simon Coveney said he understands the delay relates to the small text of a fisheries agreement. Photo: PA Wire.
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Reporting by Vivienne Clarke and Press Association.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has said there appears to be “some sort of last-minute hitch” in Brexit talks.

Mr Coveney told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland that UK prime minister Boris Johnson had been due to hold a news conference earlier, which has not yet happened.

He said he understands the delay relates to the small text of a fisheries agreement.

“I had hoped to be talking to you this morning in parallel with big announcements happening in both London and Brussels, but we still expect those later on today,” he said.

Mr Coveney pointed out that the document included 2,000 pages of legal text: “The EU will be insisting on getting this absolutely right.”

He said he believes there will be a Christmas Eve deal despite the delay, as the UK and European Union are on the threshold of striking a historic post-Brexit trade deal.

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Talks continued through the night on the details of an agreement, with the sides believed to have made progress on resolving issues including fishing rights and the “level playing field” measures aimed at preventing unfair competition.

Fuel

When asked about the problems facing the Irish fishery industry, Mr Coveney said that a deal was not going to be a disaster for Irish fishing.

However, he acknowledged that a Brexit deal was not going to conclude without some impact on fishing, saying it was a question of the extent. Ireland had set out clear targets to protect itself and he hoped they would be achieved in the deal, he said.

The expected deal comes with just days left before the current trading arrangements expire on December 31st.

Mr Johnson has been in close contact with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen in recent days as top-level efforts intensified to get a deal over the line.

The pair are expected to have a further call on Christmas Eve to agree the deal.

European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer suggested an announcement could come early on Christmas Eve.

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“Work will continue throughout the night,” he said shortly after midnight.

“Grabbing some sleep is recommended to all Brexit-watchers at this point. It will hopefully be an early start tomorrow morning…”

The negotiations in Brussels were fuelled by a late-night delivery of pizzas.

If a deal is agreed it would have to be backed by the EU’s 27 member states.

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