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No-deal Brexit would be enormous lost opportunity, warns Coveney

Politicians should dial down the language of division and focus on the details, Ireland’s foreign affairs minister added.

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Ireland’s foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney has urged politicians to dial down their language around division in Brexit talks (PA)

Ireland’s foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney has urged politicians to dial down their language around division in Brexit talks (PA)

Ireland’s foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney has urged politicians to dial down their language around division in Brexit talks (PA)

Ireland’s foreign affairs minister has urged politicians to dial down their language around division as post-Brexit talks go down to the wire.

Failing to clinch a trade deal with Britain would be an enormous “lost opportunity”, Simon Coveney added.

Boris Johnson has warned it is “very, very likely” the UK will not be able to strike an agreement with the European Union.

Mr Coveney said: “What I would say to politicians, we need to try and dial down the language in terms of the division and differences of views and focus on the detail.

That is why we think the next few days are so important in finding common ground, as opposed to stubbornly focusing on differencesSimon Coveney

“There is a bigger picture here that goes beyond trade in a world that is changing and has a lot of risk.

“The idea that the UK and EU cannot put a good, constructive, positive partnership in place in the context of that new relationship… I think that would be an enormous lost opportunity and both sides will be weaker as a result.

“That is why we think the next few days are so important in finding common ground, as opposed to stubbornly focusing on differences, some of which is based on perception and some on legal text and detail.”

Mr Coveney was in Berlin to meet German counterpart Heiko Maas.

The visit was arranged to mark the symbolic “handover” from Germany’s membership of the United Nations Security Council to Ireland’s.

But much of the press conference focused on Brexit.

Mr Coveney predicted the UK will try to make the outcome work, no matter what the result of the negotiations is.

He said: “Whether it is a deal or no-deal, all the focus now should be on getting a deal, a deal that both sides can continue and work with, where there are not winners and losers in this negotiation, but there is a partnership for the future that will benefit both sides, and certainly from an Irish perspective that is what we are seeking.”

The Prime Minister has said he is “hopeful” progress can be made in talks but he stressed the two sides remain stuck on fisheries and the so-called level-playing field.

His comments came after European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the negotiating teams’ positions remain apart on “fundamental issues”.

The two leaders have agreed to make a decision on the future of the negotiations by the end of the weekend.

Mr Coveney said the EU was seeking a new and positive relationship with a sovereign and independent Britain.

He said that could be achieved in a way that protected the EU’s interests, preserving the integrity of the single market.

“Let’s hope that Britain will be a partner of the EU, working together with us as opposed to a friend moving in a different direction on the back of a failed negotiation and a blame game and acrimony that would follow,” he added.

Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster said she hoped negotiators on both sides are able to come to a deal.

She told the PA news agency: “I know that some people think that they could deal with an Australian type of Brexit.

“But really, for us, it would be very good if we had a free trade agreement.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the negative mood music did not bode well.

“We’ve had some breakthroughs this week in terms of the protocol being clarified and the fact that the British Government have pulled back their threat of breaching international law,” she said.

“But, however, what’s going to happen on Sunday is yet to be seen and we need to have a deal. There must be a deal and clarity must be given to consumers and to businesses.”

PA


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