The Prime Minister was successful in getting his Withdrawal Agreement Bill passed by the House of Commons by a majority of 99 last Thursday. The bill will now head to the House of Lords. But Simon Coveney, who is also Ireland’s Foreign Minister, has warned the road ahead may still be rocky as Mr Johnson may struggle to come to an agreement with the EU on their future relationship on trade any time soon.
He told the Irish Independent: “I think it’s going to be really difficult to get it all done in 11 months but that’s what we move into from the first of February.”
Mr Coveney added he does not believe the EU will be rushed in its negotiations over fisheries, aviation and data.
He told the BBC: “I know that Prime Minister Johnson has set a very ambitious timetable to get this done. He’s even put it into British law.
“The EU will not be rushed on this just because Britain passes a law.”
His words come a few days after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who will attend a State reception in Dublin on Wednesday, also warned a trade deal before the end of 2020 was “impossible” without serious compromises.
Speaking at the London School of Economics, she said: “Our partnership cannot and will not be the same as before.
“It will not be as close as before because with every choice comes a consequence. With every decision comes a trade-off.
“Without the free movement of people, you cannot have the free movement of capital, goods and services.
“Without a level playing field on environment, labour and state aid, you cannot have the highest quality access to the world’s largest single market.
Ms von der Leyen added the EU may have to “prioritise” different aspects of a deal.
She said: “Without an extension of the transition period beyond 2020 you cannot expect to agree on every single aspect of our partnership.
“We will have to prioritise.”
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If the UK and EU fail to reach a solution, they could instead trade under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
However, this would be a major blow to the Irish economy.
But Mr Coveney does not believe it will come to this.
He said: “I think it’s very unlikely to happen because I think the UK needs a trade deal.
“The EU would certainly like to have a trade deal but I think the consequences to the UK of not getting a trade deal with the EU would be very severely felt in the UK, and in Ireland for that matter, but particularly in the UK.
“And I think a new prime minister with a big majority is going to want to get a deal done here, rather than be responsible for no structured trading arrangements, and having to fall back to WTO rules I think that would be seen as a massive failure for Boris Johnson.”
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