Trade talks between Britain and the EU are at risk of collapsing if there is not a breakthrough in the next week, the Irish foreign minister has said.
Speaking to Ireland’s Newstalk radio station Simon Coveney said: “If there is not a major breakthrough over th next week to 10 days then I think we really are in trouble and the focus will shift to preparing for a no trade deal and all the disruption that that brings”.
Trade talks are heading for another crunch week, with time running short to agree a deal before the UK leaves the EUs single market and customs union on 31 December.
“I think the British government understand only too well what’s required for a deal this week, teh real question is whether the political appetite is there to do it. I think we will [get a deal], that’s been my prediction for a while but I won’t be shocked if it all falls apart,” Coveney added.
The UK formally left the European Union in January, but will continue to follow the bloc’s regulations until the end of the year – just over six weeks away.
If no agreement is in place at the end of December, goods travelling between the two parties will be subject to tariffs set out by the World Trade Organisation.
The issues which are still to be ironed out are thought to include the ongoing row over fishing rights, how any deal between the two parties would be governed, and the “level playing field” measures aimed at preventing unfair competition on issues including state subsidies.
Short break from intense ???? negotiations in London.— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) November 12, 2020
Went looking for level playing fields… pic.twitter.com/2X4jbygorI
Speaking ahead of the talks, which follow a similar round in London last week, Lord David Frost said there had been progress in a “positive direction” in recent days.
However, he added the talks may not succeed and reiterated the point made by Boris Johnson that the country must be prepared for a departure with a deal or without.
4/4 But we may not succeed. Either way, as the Prime Minister @BorisJohnson made clear on 16 October, people and businesses must prepare for the change that is coming on 31 December, most of which happens whether there is a deal or not.— David Frost (@DavidGHFrost) November 15, 2020
Deadlines imposed on a future agreement have proven to be soft in the past, with Mr Johnson saying in September: “There needs to be an agreement with our European friends by the time of the European Council on October 15 if it’s going to be in force by the end of the year.
“If we can’t agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on.”