Brexit trade deal ‘must be done this week’: Ministers deny Dominic Cummings’ departure will mean UK concessions as Dublin says agreement is ‘doable’ but talks are STILL deadlocked over EU’s fishing demands
- Brexit negotiations at critical point with two sides still deadlocked on key issues
- George Eustice denied Dominic Cummings’ departure would mean concessions
- Irish foreign minister warns agreement must be done in principle this week
Environment Secretary George Eustice made clear the government was still prepared to walk away if necessary as he played down the impact of the dramatic departure by Mr Cummings – one of the most hardline Brexiteers in No10.
The defiant stance came as Dublin’s foreign minister Simon Coveney warned it was ‘move week’ and there needs to be a settlement at least in ‘principle’.
He said a deal was ‘doable’ but cautioned that there was still a major standoff over fishing, with the EU demanding 50 per cent of the catch in British waters and the UK saying it should only be 20 per cent.
He also insisted the bloc would not ratify any deal unless clauses in the Internal Market Bill overriding the Brexit divorce terms were dropped – although he also suggested that issue will ‘disappear’ if there is a wider trade deal.
Mr Eustice said the UK cannot be the ‘only country in the world that doesn’t control its own waters’.
But he said there did need to be ‘headlines’ of a trade agreement this week. ‘There does come a point frankly where businesses need to know what they are preparing for,’ Mr Eustice told Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday.
‘This needs to be a week where things move,’
Lord Frost and Michel Barnier have been locked in intense negotiations over a post-Brexit trade deal for months
Dublin’s foreign minister Simon Coveney (right) said it was ‘move week’ and there needs to be a settlement at least in ‘principle’. Environment Secretary George Eustice (left) dismissed the idea that the government will back down on fishing
Asked whether Mr Cummings exit made it easier to strike a deal, Mr Eustice said: ‘The negotiations have been led by David Frost from the beginning.
‘He’s got a very talented, experienced team of technical experts around him.
‘He’s led these negotiations from the start and obviously remains in place and continues to do so.
‘So I don’t actually think the departure of Dominic Cummings makes any impact on the negotiations, since Lord Frost has been leading those.’
Speaking immediately before Mr Eustice on the programme, Mr Coveney said: ‘I think I would sum it up by saying this is very difficult, but, it’s also very doable.
‘And I think the consequences of not getting a trade deal and a future relationship deal… before the end of the year, I think is very significant.’
The EU has insisted that agreement on trade terms needs to be reached this week so it can be ratified before the end of the Brexit transition period on January 1.
The UK has been holding out against demands from Michel Barnier to give ground on control of fishing waters, as well as accepting EU rules on state aid and the environment.
Dominic Cummings has previously been one of the hawks in government on the need to take a hard line, and be ready to walk away without a deal rather than give up sovereignty.
Senior figures in Brussels have been gloating that news of his departure could be the start of a climbdown to get a post-Brexit trade deal.
Senior MEP Philippe Lamberts said it was ‘probably the sign that Johnson has begun his u-turn and will in the end accept EU conditions’
But Mr Eustice rejected the idea today. And No10 flatly denied there was any change in approach last week. ‘Absolutely not. That is simply false,’ the PM’s spokesman said.
‘The government’s position in relation to the future trade agreement negotiations is unchanged.’
Eustice made clear the government was still prepared to walk away if necessary as he played down the impact of the dramatic departure of by Mr Cummings (pictured) – one of the most hardline Brexiteers in No10