Brexit breakthrough: Boris vows to ‘prioritise’ Good Friday Agreement as talks resume
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The Prime Minister spoke to Mr Martin by telephone on Friday evening to discuss the ongoing trade talks between the UK and European Union, as well as issues around the coronavirus pandemic. Downing Street said Mr Johnson “underlined his commitment” to reaching a Brexit deal that “respects the sovereignty” during their conversation. Number 10 added the Prime Minister also “reaffirmed the need to prioritise the Good Friday Agreement and avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland”.
A spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister spoke to Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin this evening.
“The leaders updated one another on their respective efforts to tackle coronavirus and the steps they have taken to ensure people in the UK and Ireland can enjoy Christmas as safely as possible.
“They discussed shared challenges including the environment and committed to working together ahead of the UK-hosted Cop26 summit next year.
“They discussed the progress in the UK-EU trade negotiations and the Prime Minister underlined his commitment to reaching a deal that respects the sovereignty of the UK. The leaders also reaffirmed the need to prioritise the Good Friday Agreement and avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
“The Prime Minister and Taoiseach looked forward to seeing one another in person when possible.”
A huge part of the long-running Brexit negotiations have centred around fears over potential checks on goods along the Irish land border in the Irish Sea.
But relations between the UK and Ireland have become frayed over recent weeks since Downing Street introduced the Internal Market Bill.
Mr Johnson and his Government are continuing to press ahead with the Internal Market Bill, which could override key elements of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement with the EU and consequently, risks breaking international law.
Number 10 insists the legislation is needed to protect the Northern Ireland peace process if Britain is unable to secure a deal with the EU.
The Government is proposing “limited clarifications” to the law to ensure ministers can preserve the gains of the Good Friday Agreement in the event of a no deal outcome between the two sides.
Earlier this month, Irish Taoiseach Mr Martin warned failure to agree a post-Brexit trade deal would be “very, very damaging all around”, would be “ruinous” for the UK, and that Ireland would suffer.
He also warned the UK needs to be “very careful that they do not do anything that could destabilise the politics of Northern Ireland”, and that a no deal outcome with the EU could lead to “tensions that are unnecessary”.
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The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has travelled to London this weekend to resume face-to-face talks with UK counterpart David Frost in an attempt to strike a post-Brexit trade deal.
The Brexit transition period agreed by the two sides ends on December 31 – leaving just over four weeks for a deal to be agreed and be ratified by both the UK and EU Parliaments.
The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator said he will continue to see if conditions for a post-Brexit trade deal exist and although it is late, an agreement is still possible, but warned “it must fully respect UK sovereignty”.
Lord Frost tweeted: “I look forward to welcoming @michelbarnier and his team to London and to resuming face-to-face talks tomorrow. We are glad all are safe and well.
“Some people are asking me why we are still talking. My answer is that it’s my job to do my utmost to see if the conditions for a deal exist.
“It is late, but a deal is still possible, and I will continue to talk until it’s clear that it isn’t.
“But for a deal to be possible it must fully respect UK sovereignty.
“That is not just a word – it has practical consequences.
“That includes: controlling our borders; deciding ourselves on a robust and principled subsidy control system; and controlling our fishing waters.
“We look to reach an agreement on this basis, allowing the new beginning to our relationship with the EU which, for our part, we have always wanted.
“We will continue to work hard to get it – because an agreement on any other basis is not possible.”
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