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Foreign minister Simon Coveney said his country would be caught in the “crossfire” between acrimonious exchanges between Brussels and London if the trade talks end in failure. Speaking ahead of a trip to Paris, he warned a no-deal Brexit would “mean significant disruption, costs, stress and blame games between Brussels and London”. The minister added: “From an Irish perspective, we get caught in the cross-fires there.”
Emmanuel Macron is trying to collapse negotiations to force the UK into giving the EU widespread access to British fishing waters.
The French President wants the EU to haul Britain back to the negotiating table in the new year without the “time pressure” of having a deal in place ready for the end of transition arrangements on December 31.
Michel Barnier, the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator, is under pressure by EU capitals, led by France, to walk away from the talks unless Boris Johnson makes significant concessions in disputes over post-Brexit fishing rights and common standards.
The Brussels diplomat yesterday warned EU27 ambassadors that he was not certain whether a deal can be reached before the end of the year.
Mr Coveney revealed they were told the issues of fisheries, level playing field and governance continue to block significant progress.
He added: “The Irish government will be doing everything we can to try to find a way with the EU and UK teams to get a deal that Ireland can live with.
“That means getting a fair deal for both sides on fisheries, which has proven really, really difficult.”
Mr Coveney will meet French Europe minister Clement Beaune later today.
In a dig at France’s no deal push, the Irish foreign minister added: “There’s a good chance we can get a deal across the line in the next few days.
“Closing out a negotiation as complex as this one is never going to be easy.”
Hardline states, led by Mr Macron, are concerned Mr Barnier could compromise in order to clinch a last minute agreement and protect his legacy.
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EU fishing states, such as France, Belgium and Denmark, fear they face being largely shut out of the UK’s coastal waters.
British officials rubbished claims by Mr Barnier in a separate briefing to MEPs that Downing Street had watered down its fishing demands.
The Brussels diplomat said No10 was now ready to accept 60 percent of the value of the stocks in UK fishing grounds.
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A senior UK source said: “It’s a non-starter.”
Following Mr Barnier’s briefing to member states, an EU diplomat said: “We are quickly approaching a make or break moment in the Brexit talks.
“It is still unclear whether negotiators can bridge the gaps on issues like level playing field, governance and fisheries.”
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