Ireland’s Simon Coveney hits back at Dominic Raab and says EU demands ‘not unreasonable’

Brexit: Simon Coveney says EU’s demands ‘not unreasonable’

Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Coveney, has insisted that the EU is not demanding anything new in Brexit negotiations in response to Dominic Raab’s recent statement. The British Foreign Secretary had said that the level playing field remains the key stumbling block in talks, adding that the EU has “hardened its position in recent days”. Mr Coveney dismissed this when he updated BBC News on the status of the joint agreement.

He said: “I don’t quite know where he’s coming from on that.

“A year ago, both sides agreed in writing, in a political declaration, that there had to be an agreement on a level playing field and fair competition between the EU and the UK if they were going to put a trade agreement in place without quotas or tariffs.

“Unfortunately the British side is seeing this as somehow undermining British sovereignty, which isn’t the case at all.

“The EU recognises of course that the UK outside of the EU is a sovereign, independent country, we respect that.”

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Mr Coveney continued: “But if you’re going to have free trade and the absence of tariffs between two economies right next door to each other, well then it’s not unreasonable to ask for what has already been agreed in principle.

“Which is that we have a level playing field for fair competition now and in the future.

“Really that’s all the EU is looking for.”

The Irish Foreign Affairs Minister also warned that there is “increasing pessimism and frustration” within the EU.

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He told the BBC: “The EU’s position really has been consistent and clear for the last 12 months, certainly since the withdrawal agreement had been agreed.

“The insistence of the EU’s side that there has to be free but also fair competition between these two big economies is something that’s not new.

“It certainly doesn’t threaten British sovereignty.”

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Downing Street have said that “large gaps” remain between the UK and EU despite the Prime Minister’s three-hour dinner with the EU chief, Ursula von der Leyen, last night.

Both sides say that negotiations to strike a post-Brexit free trade agreement will continue until Sunday, after which they say a firm decision must be made about the future.

EU leaders are gathering in Brussels this afternoon, but Brexit isn’t formally on the agenda.

The UK thinks the EU needs to move significantly to enable progress. The EU feels the same about Britain.

Talks between Michel Barnier and David Frost are set to resume later on.

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