Irish deputy PM Leo Varadkar says he expects Britain and the EU to complete a no-quota, no-tariff, free-trade Brexit deal, as Westminster plays hardball over Northern Ireland.
In an interview published on Thursday in The Currency, Varadkar claimed that an EU-UK free-trade deal is still achievable.
I still think there will be a deal. It will be no quotas, no tariffs, some form of minimum standards and control on state aid and fishing,
The UK remains Ireland’s biggest trading partner and the introduction of tariffs and quotas is likely to impair the prosperity of both parties. Dublin has recently dropped talk of a no-deal Brexit and has insisted that there is a good chance of getting a deal done; “The incentive is there. We know what the outstanding issues are and they are not insurmountable,” foreign minister Simon Coveney noted on Wednesday.
In recent weeks, European leaders have reacted angrily to UK premier Boris Johnson’s decision to renege on the Withdrawal Agreement reached in 2019. Westminster’s controversial Internal Market Bill would see the UK unilaterally ensure Northern Ireland is part of a customs union with the rest of the UK, and it heightens the risk of a hard border on the island of Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Protocol, agreed as part of the Withdrawal Agreement, enshrined the introduction of customs checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, avoiding the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit. A free-trade deal would solve the row over the possibility of a hard border.
As 27 national leaders gather in Brussels on Thursday, Reuters’ sources claimed that trade negotiators have not made any headway over state aid, the most contentious outstanding issue. Johnson wants to control Britain’s subsidy regime after Brexit, which contravenes EU rules on state intervention. Meanwhile, Britain has reportedly offered the EU last-minute concessions over fisheries which would see the phasing down of EU boats in British waters until 2024, and is angering the UK’s fishing industry.
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