Politics

Brexit: UK must ‘knuckle down’ to get trade deal with EU, says Irish PM

FILE PHOTO: Ireland's Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Micheal Martin speaks to the media as he arrives for the European Union leaders face-to-face summit in Brussels, Belgium October 16, 2020. REUTERS/Johanna Geron/Pool

Britain must “knuckle down” to get a deal on its post-Brexit relationship with the EU before the end of 2020, Ireland’s prime minister Micheál Martin has said.

The arrival of Joe Biden as US president-elect has initiated a new shift towards multilateralism which should see Washington, Brussels and London working closely together, said the Taoiseach.

And he warned that failure to secure a deal on trade, security and the wider UK/EU relationship by the end of December would be “ruinous” for the UK, damaging for Europe and “very negative in terms of the emerging global situation”.

Mr Martin’s comments will increase pressure on Boris Johnson for a deal, as the latest round of negotiations draw to an end in London today with no prospect of a breakthrough.

The UK has just 49 days to secure a deal by the prime minister’s self-imposed 31 December deadline or crash out in a no-deal Brexit on unfavourable World Trade Organisation terms, with likely knock-on damage to co-operation between the UK and EU in a wide range of areas.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Martin said failure to reach a deal could create “tensions that are unnecessary” and that there was a danger these concerns were not being taken seriously enough.

He warned that Mr Johnson’s Internal Market Bill, which would allow UK ministers to override last year’s Northern Ireland Protocol in a way which the government admits would breach international law, had created “niggling doubts” over whether London could be trusted to stick to the terms of any deal signed now.

“Efforts have to be made to reassure the EU side that what has happened in terms of the Internal Market Bill is not going to happen in 12 months’ time in the event of a deal being agreed between the European Union and the United Kingdom,” said Mr Martin.

Warning of the dangers of the UK leaving the EU’s single market and customs union without a deal, he said: “We’ve all had a very significant shock to our economic system because of Covid-19 – the last thing we need now across all of our respective economies is a second major shock.”

And he added: “I think with Joe Biden, we are going to get a greater thrust towards multilateralism again. And I think Britain has a role here.

“I think it works best if Britain and Europe can work out a sustainable future working relationship in trade and in other areas that would dovetail with the orientation that will emerge from the president-elect and the new team in the White House.

“That’s where we can optimise that and I think that’s why, if I could respectfully say it, the British government should head in that direction.

“In my view, it should knuckle down and get a deal with the European Union. The European Union will want that as well.

“From a geopolitical position, we share common values. We are pro-democracy in a world that’s becoming more authoritarian, (we are for) freedom of speech, democracy, all of that. Britain shares that with Europe, it shares it with the United States.

“Let’s all of us work together to be a strength for that. A fissure now or a breakdown in talks between Europe and the UK, in my view, would be very negative in terms of the emerging global situation.”

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