Brexit: EU won’t be rushed by Boris Johnson’s deadline, Irish minister insists

Simon Coveney warns negotiations on trade, security, fisheries, travel and data will be complex

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Sunday 12 January 2020 11:38
Simon Coveney suggests EU27 may not comply with Johnson's deadline for future trade deal

The EU will not be rushed into striking a deal on future relations with the UK just because Parliament has passed a law to prevent an extension of negotiations, Ireland’s foreign minister has said.

Simon Coveney said the 31 December deadline written into Boris Johnson’s EU withdrawal legislation was "very ambitious” and would not apply to the remaining 27 nations of the EU.

Mr Johnson’s insistence that he will not extend the transition period for negotiations beyond the end of 2020 has raised the spectre of a chaotic no-deal Brexit disrupting trade and travel.

But Mr Coveney told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show that the deal on future EU/UK relations must involve more than just trade, also taking in thorny issues like fishing, aviation and data transfers.

"I know that Prime Minister Johnson has set a very ambitious timetable to get this done. He has even put it into British law,” said the Irish deputy premier,

“But just because a British parliament decides that British laws say something doesn't mean that that law applies to the other 27 countries of the European Union.

“So the European Union will approach this on the basis of getting the best deal possible - a fair and balanced deal to ensure the EU and the UK can interact as friends in the future.

"But the EU will not be rushed on this just because Britain passes a law."

Mr Coveney raised concerns about the possibility of a series of side deals on specific areas if time ran out to strike a comprehensive agreement by December.

"We would certainly much rather negotiate a comprehensive deal that deals with all of these things collectively and together," he said.

"If we have learnt anything from the first round of Brexit - which has taken a lot longer than it should have - it is that we have got to provide certainty for people, we can't continue to have crisis after crisis and the uncertainty and brinkmanship of Brexit negotiations."

Mr Coveney raised concern about the tone of UK commentary framing the negotiations as an opportunity for Britain to defeat or stand up to the EU.

"This is the language of enemies, not friends, and we need to move away from that," he said.

"Both sides in this negotiation in the next stage of Brexit has a vested interest in working together - not to try to outmanoeuvre each other."

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