Irish Foreign Minister: Brexit deal 'possible' but needs 'a lot of progress'

15 October 2019, 14:54

European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, right, speaks with Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, left.
European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, right, speaks with Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, left. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Ireland's deputy premier remains hopeful that a Brexit deal can be reached before the crucial EU summit.

This morning the European Union's chief negotiator Michel Barnier briefed the leaders of the 27 EU member states on the progress of Brexit talks between the bloc and the UK.

Following the meeting of EU leaders, Ireland's Simon Coveney said thought a deal was still possible before the summit.

Mr Conveney said: "I think what Michel Barnier said today was very clear, that it's difficult but possible to have a deal between the two negotiating teams this side of the leaders' summit.

"That means that a lot of progress needs to be made today, but I think that's doable if there is a willingness on both sides to move this process to conclusion.

"Of course if that doesn't happen well then it leads to another debate in terms of how the leaders will respond to that in the context of whether more time will be needed or whether we can continue discussions into next week on trying to get the job done."

Speaking to reporters in Luxembourg before the briefing Mr Barnier said a deal on the UK's exit from the EU is "still possible this week."

He added that it was "high time" to turn "good intentions into legal text."

Mr Coveney said the British negotiators needed to have the finalised text finished in time for the meeting.

He said steps needed to be taken today, in advance to a briefing tomorrow for EU leaders before the summit takes place on Thursday.

He added the EU wasn't "putting any deadlines" on the discussions. But said t was possible to "move beyond the summit and continue talks next week."

"If the deal can't be done today or tomorrow then the leaders will have to decide what kind of mandate they want to give Michel Barnier and the UK side will have to respond as well as to how to proceed."

The UK's Brexit Secretary Steven Barclay said there was "clear desire" from EU ministers at the General Affairs Council in Luxembourg to "get Brexit done."

In a Tweet, he said he had "useful discussions."

Downing Street refused to recognise the deadline reportedly set by Michel Barnier for a legal text to be presented by the end of the day in order to get a deal secured at the EU summit.

Asked if he recognises the deadline, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We are working hard. The Prime Minister is aware of the time constraints that we are under.

"We want to make progress towards securing a deal as soon as possible and we want to make progress ahead of the EU council on Thursday."