Publishedduration37 minutes ago
image copyrightPA Media
image captionThe Brexit transition period is due to end on 31 December 2020
A trade deal between the European Union and the UK is “possible” but “time is running out”, the Irish foreign affairs minister has said.
Simon Coveney said an agreement needed to be “finalised this week if possible” to allow time for it to be ratified and preparations to be made.
The Brexit transition period is due to end on 31 December 2020.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said it is likely negotiations were entering the “last real major week”.
Although the UK has officially left the EU, both sides have been locked in talks for months about their future relationship.
Mr Coveney said there were two issues which needed to be resolved – competition and fishing.
The Irish minister said competition should be on a “level playing field” and agreement was required on a governance mechanism for potential disputes.
image captionSimon Coveney said the EU had been “respectful, consistent and firm” in the negotiations
Fishing was a politically-emotive subject and there was a need to reach a compromise “that both sides can live with”, he said.
“What we’re trying to do at the moment is close out a negotiation,” he said.
“Make no mistake at the start of next year there is going to be a very different trading environment across the Irish Sea.”
A no-deal situation in January, he said, would be “so costly and so disruptive, particularly for the UK and for Northern Ireland, but for the Republic of Ireland as well”.
On Sunday, Mr Raab said the talks were focused on resolving a “fairly narrow” set of issues.
Addressing the dispute around fishing, Mr Raab said the EU should accept a “point of principle” over the UK’s “control” over its fishing grounds post-deal.
image copyrightREUTERS/Simon Dawson
image captionEU chief negotiator Michel Barnier pictured arriving for the Brexit talks on Monday
Mr Coveney said the EU had been “respectful and consistent and firm” throughout the negotiations.
He was also asked about calls for an extension to the transition period or a “grace period” for any new arrangements.
“Even this question in my view makes me sit up straight,” he told BBC Radio Ulster.
“The British government wa