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Hope Taoiseach says no-deal Brexit would be 'very damaging' as crunch talks continue

"Where the dialogue continues that that gives me hope”

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Ireland's Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Micheal Martin speaks as he arrives to attend a face-to-face EU summit amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown in Brussels, Belgium December 10, 2020. John Thys/Pool via REUTERS

Ireland's Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Micheal Martin speaks as he arrives to attend a face-to-face EU summit amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown in Brussels, Belgium December 10, 2020. John Thys/Pool via REUTERS

REUTERS

Ireland's Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Micheal Martin speaks as he arrives to attend a face-to-face EU summit amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown in Brussels, Belgium December 10, 2020. John Thys/Pool via REUTERS

It’s vital that Britain and Europe don’t have an acrimonious break-up, because that would be “very damaging all round,” Taoiseach Micheál Martin warned today.

I think it would be an appalling failure of statecraft if we were not in a position to get a deal over the line,” the Taoiseach said.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show in an interview from Cork, Mr Martin said he fervently hopes talks can continue even after today’s deadline.

“The fact that they negotiated through the night is an important sign in itself. Where the dialogue continues that that gives me hope,” he said.

“Even at the 11th hour, in a very difficult negotiation around level playing field and fisheries, the capacity in my view still exists for the United Kingdom Government and the European Union negotiating teams to conclude a deal that is in all our interests for the long term,” the Taoiseach told British viewers.

Ursula von der Leyen is due to have a phone call with Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister, at lunchtime. Talks all night in Brussels were said to have produced “no progress.”

Mr Martin was asked if it was fair that Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron had refused a request from Boris Johnson for last-minute meetings in a bid to break the logjam, and had even turned down phone calls.

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The Prime Minister is expected to be in decisive talks with EU officials on Sunday (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The Prime Minister is expected to be in decisive talks with EU officials on Sunday (Gareth Fuller/PA)

PA

The Prime Minister is expected to be in decisive talks with EU officials on Sunday (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“Europe has 27 EU member states — we work through the Commission,” he said. “There is great respect and faith in Michel Barnier and his team, and the view from the outset has been that this is the negotiating channel, and the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, would engage with British Prime Minister, in terms of resolving any sort of major issues or to unblock any blockages.

“I absolutely understand that. And of course they are talking later on today.”
Mr Martin, who has reportedly been texting Mr Johnson on the negotiations to urge him to think of the effects of a break-up on working people across these islands and Europe, said the pair “have an open channel” in the context of of the British Irish relationship.

“But I think in terms of the substance of the negotiations is between the European Union negotiating team of Michel Barnier and the British Government.”

Mr Martin said he appreciated the work that was done by the British negotiating team on the Northern Ireland protocol, and in relation to the withdrawal treaty, which last week led to the withdrawal of contentious clauses in the UK Internal Market Bill.

“I think that demonstrates what can happen when there's when people knuckle down and get involved in a constructive process.”

He added: “It is absolutely imperative that both sides continue to engage and both sides continue to work in negotiate to avoid a no-deal, because I firmly believe and have consistently said that no deal would be very bad news for all of us.

“We are interdependent. The UK economy and the European economy is very integrated. And that has built up over a long time. It was the United Kingdom, that was one of the creators of the Single Market going back to the time of Margaret Thatcher, who led the way on that.

“So in my view it’s extremely important that the future relationship between the United Kingdom, and Europe is a solid one, not just in terms of tariff-free trade but also in terms of politics, judicial and security co-operation, aviation, transport and energy.

“It’s important that we have a good future relationship deal between Europe and the United Kingdom given, given the geopolitical challenges we are facing, but also because we represent people, workers, employers who need certainty, and because no deal would be so damaging to workers in the UK in Ireland and across Europe.

“That is why I say, with any bit of energy we have left, we must continue to focus on negotiating our way to a deal.”

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