UK, Ireland discuss progress in Brexit trade negotiations

Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin (L) with British PM Boris Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke with Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin on Friday evening and discussed progress in UK-EU trade negotiations, the UK government said, at a time when differences remained with the EU on a Brexit trade deal.

On the call, Johnson stressed his commitment to reach a deal that respects the sovereignty of the country, the government said in a statement here.

The leaders also reaffirmed the need to prioritise the 1998 Good Friday peace deal and avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. The deal effectively ended Northern Ireland’s 30 years of sectarian violence and created institutions for cross-border cooperation on the island of Ireland.

On Wednesday, the Ireland prime minister had said that there was still time for a “good result” in trade talks.

The leaders also discussed their respective efforts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and measures taken ahead of Christmas.

Shortly after the UK-Ireland talks, the European Union’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has returned back in London to continue face-to-face negotiations on securing a trade deal with Britain.

“I am very happy to be back in London. We continue the work with patience and determination,” he told Reuters after arriving in London for a new round of trade talks.

With just five weeks left until the United Kingdom finally exits the EU’s orbit, both sides are calling on the other to move their positions to clear the way for a trade deal that would avoid a tumultuous finale to the five-year Brexit crisis. A “no-deal” exit would snarl borders, spook financial markets and disrupt delicate supply chains that stretch across Europe and beyond -- just as the world grapples with the vast economic cost of the COVID-19 outbreak.

To avoid such a scenario, both sides are calling on the other to compromise on the three main issues of contention - fishing, state aid and how to resolve any future disputes. 

According to the Telegraph, the European Union is set to concede on Brexit fishing rights. Brussels has also accepted a proposal for a transition period on fishing rights after 1 January, the newspaper said although that has not been officially declared yet.

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