Publishedduration2 hours ago
media captionMartin: A breakdown in talks between Europe and the UK would be “very negative”.
The UK has to “knuckle down” to get a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU, the Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.
He also said failing to reach an agreement would be “very, very damaging all round”.
The UK and EU are in talks but big differences still remain on fishing access and state aid rules.
Boris Johnson has insisted there is a deal “to be done” and that the “outlines” of an agreement are clear.
The UK officially left the EU on 31 January, but has been in a transition period since then – following many of the bloc’s rules while a trade agreement is negotiated.
That period is due to end on 31 December and if a deal is not agreed, the UK will trade with the bloc on World Trade Organization rules – leading to tariffs being introduced on many imports and exports, which could push up costs for businesses and consumers.
Speaking to the BBC, the Irish prime minister Mr Martin warned that failure to get a deal would be “ruinous” for the UK and that Ireland would also suffer.
“We’ve all had a very significant shock to our economic system because of Covid-19 – the last thing we need now across all of our respective economies is a second major shock,” he said.
He said US President-elect Joe Biden would introduce a “greater thrust towards multilateralism” and that the UK should follow his “orientation” by working with the EU.
He dismissed suggestions that the EU had not compromised in the talks and said he believed a deal could still be reached.
Mr Martin also warned the UK government to be “very careful that they do not do anything that could destabilise the politics of Northern Ireland” as it leaves the transition period.
Throughout the Brexit process both sides have said they want to avoid a hard border – a border with cameras and border posts – between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Mr Martin said failure to reach a deal could create “tensions that are unnecessary” and that there was a danger these concerns were not being taken seriously enough.
He cited the government’s Internal Market Bill as an example. The bill is designed to enable goods and services to flow freely across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland after 1 January – when the post-Brexit transition period runs out.
It gives the government the power to change aspects of the EU Withdrawal Agreement, a legally binding deal governing the terms of Brexit made earlier this year.
Ministers say the bill would provide a “safety net” in case the EU interprets the agreement, in particular the section on Northern Ireland,