Foreign minister Simon Coveney voiced concern with the state of negotiations after holding talks with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, yesterday afternoon. If talks fail, he said there could be serious “consequences” for Ireland as it rebuilds its economy from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. “Progress has not be good in the couple of rounds of negotiations we’ve had, of course, there have been huge distractions for everybody in the context of COVID-19,” he told RTE.
“There are only two rounds of negotiations left before an assessment in mid-summer and one of them is this week.”
Talks currently remain deadlocked after both sides failed to make progress on a post-Brexit fisheries pact.
Brussels insists the bloc’s fishermen should be granted the same access to Britain’s waters in the future, while Downing Street is adamant the relationship must change.
Virtual negotiations are due to resume again on May 11 with officials still unable to meet face-to-face due to the threat of coronavirus.
After the last round, Mr Barnier accused the Government of refusing to engage in a number of areas, including the regulatory level playing field, and deliberately slowing talks down.
Taskforce Europe, led by David Frost, Boris Johnson’s lead negotiator, denied the claims.
Writing on Twitter, Mr Frost said Brussels was making “unprecedented” demands that would keep the UK tied to EU laws and judgements by the European Court of Justice.
On fisheries, he added: “We are ready to work to agree a fisheries agreement which reflects our rights under international law to control our own waters, and provides for annual negotiations over access based on scientific principles.
“We won’t agree to continuing the Common Fisheries Policy.”
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“The Covid crisis in some aspects should concentrate the minds of EU negotiators, reinforcing the vital importance of coming to a deal.”
Mr Barnier is due to hold talks with European ambassadors later this afternoon.
He will set out whether he believes a deal can be struck in the coming months.
Senior officials on both sides have suggested a political intervention from Mr Johnson or Ursula von der Leyen, the EU Commission’s president, could provide a much-needed boost.