EU and Union flags fly above Parliament Square in central London, Britain. File photo: REUTERS
EU and Union flags fly above Parliament Square in central London, Britain. File photo: REUTERS

Dublin/Belfast — Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney raised the possibility of a breakthrough in Brexit talks in December and urged the UK to make further concessions to allow talks to move to trade.

"We have a reasonable chance for sufficient progress in December," Coveney said on Wednesday. "It’s Britain that controls the odds."

The comments may signal some growing optimism that progress can be made in December. Last week, Coveney warned his British counterpart, Boris Johnson, that efforts to solve the border question are at "somewhat of an impasse".

The border is one of three key issues that have been identified, along with citizens’ rights and money owed by the UK, that require "sufficient progress" towards a resolution before the EU will allow talks to move on to Britain’s future trade relationship with the bloc.

Hong Kong example

More needs to come from the UK, Coveney said, as he cited Hong Kong as an example of a region with a bespoke trading arrangement within a wider nation state.

"When Ireland says, and when the EU task force says, we need significantly more progress and reassurance and clarity on the Irish border issues, we mean it," he said.

"We will not accept a situation where we are expected to simply facilitate to move on to the opening of phase two discussions in the absence of getting credible answers in phase one on the border issues."

Coveney’s position was buttressed by prime minister Leo Varadkar, who told lawmakers in Dublin that the UK had not yet provided a satisfactory response to a proposal to avoid a hard border through Northern Ireland playing by the same rules as those operating in the south.

"We could be in for difficult few weeks and months ahead," he told lawmakers.

"We haven’t come under any pressure as yet to soften our position, but I’m not so naïve to think that might not occur.

"But even if we are isolated, we have to hold this position," he said.


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