Michael Martin has raised the possibility that if there is a breakthrough by then, EU officials could be working on the text of a Brexit agreement on Christmas Day.
The Taoiseach said he and other European leaders were “on standby” to help any agreement that could arise from the Brussels-British government negotiations.
This comes as negotiators continue their talks in Brussels, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission are in close touch to address the remaining challenges.
When asked about the speculation surrounding the negotiations, Martin said, “If there was a breakthrough tonight or tomorrow, officials in Europe could be working on the text on Christmas Day.”
He said that the talks were “all fish in a barrel” and that major gaps still remained.
Martin said the two sides were far from agreeing on a reduction of EU catches in the waters of Britain.
He said that the EU was also worried about the UK’s demand for annual catch-level talks, claiming it would lead to “instability.”
Martin reported on Tuesday that an agreement was “more likely than less likely.”
The Taoiseach reiterated Wednesday morning’s view.
“The bottom line is I think there should be a deal given the progress that has been made,” he told RTE Radio One.
And in addition to Covid-19, which really hit the respective economies of the UK, Ireland, and the EU member states, I think a no-deal will be a horrible shock to the economic system.
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“Our domestic economy in particular has taken a very big hit,” she said.
“And that’s why we need a deal.”
Martin said the biggest barrier to a contract is always fishing.
“Right now it seems to be all about the fish,” he said.
“There’s been a lot of progress in the last two to three weeks on a level playing field, and it’s very difficult for all parties, but the gap is still wide on fish, and it’s a time of concern for fishing communities in Ireland.”
Mr. Martin said the survival of rural Ireland’s fishing communities is at stake (Brian Lawless/PA).
Mr. Martin said that the EU had agreed to reduce the number of fish captured in British waters by 25%, followed by a transition period of six years.
He indicated that the UK was calling for a more than 35 percent cut.
“It’s not just about monetary issues, it’s about the sustainability of the fishing industry in terms of member states, and six or seven member states have particular concerns here,” he said.
“It’s about preserving rural communities.”
He said that a sustainable future fishing agreement is required and expressed concern about the British call for annual negotiations.
“One of the concerns here is that the U.K. has to have annual negotiations in terms of access to its waters and to the fish in its waters, which I think would be a recipe for instability and in terms of the fishing community wanting to know what the future looks like,” he said.
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France warned that, only because the deadline is approaching, the EU will not be forced to agree to a contract.
Clement Beaune, French Minister of European Affairs, said that a no-deal scenario would be ‘catastrophic’ for Britain, and indicated that the EU should hold out.
“We should not put ourselves under time pressure as Europeans to finish by this hour or this day. Otherwise, we would put ourselves in a situation where we would have to make bad concessions.”