Thursday 13 August 2020 6:43 pm

Irish PM: 'Landing zone' for a Brexit trade deal in sight

The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator has today said an EU trade deal can be struck next month as the Irish Prime Minister also sees a potential “landing zone”.

Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator – and close ally – David Frost said on Twitter today that “our assessment is that agreement can be reached in September”, with formal talks set to resume next week.

Johnson also met with Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin today where they spoke about a potential UK-EU trade deal.

Martin was optimistic about the prospect of a deal being ratified before the post-Brexit transition period ends on 31 December.

Both sides have said a deal must be agreed several months before this date to have enough time to pass it through the EU parliament and give businesses enough time to prepare for the new regulations.

“It seems to me that there is a landing zone if that will is there on both sides, and I think it is,” Martin said.

“My own gut instinct is that there is a shared understanding that we don’t need another shock to the economic system that a sub-optimal trade agreement would give alongside of the enormous shock of Covid.”

Talks between the UK and EU were deadlocked at the end of the last round of negotiations last month, with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier saying a deal was “now unlikely”.

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The two largest areas of contention are still EU fishing access to UK waters and business competition regulations known as the level playing field.

Barnier said the last negotiating round yielded “no progress” on these two areas.

UK negotiators are asking for fishing rights to British waters to be decided on a “zonal attachment” basis, which reflects where the fish actually live.

Under the previous arrangement, EU countries had extensive access to UK fishing waters under the Common Fisheries Policy.

Barnier said the UK’s position on fisheries would lead to a “near total exclusion of EU fishing access to UK waters”.

Brussels is also asking the UK to match EU regulations on a number of areas such as labour laws, environmental laws and state aid provision to ensure a level playing field for businesses on both sides of the channel.

The UK has made it clear that it will not be locked in to regulations set by the EU, while Barnier today said the level playing field was non-negotiable.

City A.M. understands the largest point of dispute is that Brussels is trying to make the UK commit to future standards.

Today, Frost said: “The UK’s sovereignty, over our laws, our courts, or our fishing waters, is of course not up for discussion and we will not accept anything which compromises it – just as we aren’t looking for anything which threatens the integrity of the EU’s single market.”