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Dublin: 0°C Saturday 17 April 2021

Coveney: We've been saying it for a while but THIS is the key week in Brexit talks

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday that there was ‘a deal to be done’.

Image: PA

CRUNCH TALKS AIMED at securing a post-Brexit trade deal between the European Union and UK will resume later today in what could be the final week of discussions.

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his counterpart David Frost will meet again in London as they seek to hammer out an agreement.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he has a lot of faith in Michel Barnier to negotiate a “balanced deal” but with just a month to go until the end of the transition period, he warned that time was running out. 

“I’ve been saying for the last number of weeks that this is the key week, and we’re staying the same again this week,” Coveney told Morning Ireland. 

“I think perhaps the difference is that the UK side are saying it as well this week.” 

A recent sticking point in talks has been fishing rights – described UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab as an “outstanding major bone of contention”.

But the Raab said there was “a deal to be done” after the EU showed progress on the so-called level playing field aimed at preventing unfair competition.

Coveney agreed that fishing is an outstanding issue but accused the UK of creating the perception “that they own all fish that are caught in their waters, as opposed to it being a shared stock, in many cases”. 

“It’s about sustainably managing stock. Many of those fish are born and grow in Irish waters before they swim into British waters were they’re caught, in the case of mackerel in particular. So these are shared stocks.”

He said nobody is questioning the UK’s control of its own waters but as it looks for access into EU markets there are counter-questions from the EU, such as accessing their fishing waters “that our fleets have historically had for many many decades”.

“This is a negotiation where there is give and take on both sides,” he said. 

“In a broader agreement, it is important that both sides recognise each other’s concerns and interests and, from my perspective,  the Irish fishing interests in UK waters are significant.”

Speaking on Sunday, Raab said this could be the last week of “substantive” negotiations and urged Brussels to recognise the “point of principle” on Britain’s control of its waters.

“As we leave the EU we’re going to be an independent … coastal state and we’ve got to be able to control our waters,” he told Sky News.

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Fishing rights as well as the governance of any deal and the “level playing field” have been the main stumbling blocks preventing the two sides from reaching a deal so far.

Shadow international development secretary Preet Kaur Gill said yesterday it would difficult for Labour to vote against a Brexit pact.

“I don’t think we could vote against the deal because like I said the British government want us to get a deal, it’s in the national interest,” the MP told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour programme.

Without an agreement, the UK will leave the single market and customs union on December 31, and trade under World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms.

A Number 10 source said over the weekend that the bloc “must understand that we are not going to sell out our sovereignty”.

Barnier and Lord Frost resumed face-to-face talks in the capital on Saturday after negotiations were paused earlier this month when one of the EU team tested positive for coronavirus.

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