Ireland to make stunning Brexit intervention at EU leaders summit – ‘deeply impacted’

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Irish premier Micheal Martin will take the floor at the EU Council summit on Friday evening to address Boris Johnson’s threat to rip up parts of last year’s Brexit divorce pact. He was offered the opportunity amid concerns the Government’s Internal Market Bill could still derail a UK-EU free-trade agreement. Senior Brussels sources said Ireland would be allowed to make a stand because it is “deeply impacted” by the controversial legislation.

An EU official said: “We expect, we hope it’s possible to move forward and to be able to enter in a phase where we can see light at the end of the tunnel. The Bill is not really helpful in this sense.”

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, is not expected to attend the leaders’ gathering after concluding his own trade talks with Lord Frost.

Boris Johnson’s Brexit envoy has been in the Belgian capital this week for the ninth formal round of wrangling over a future relationship pact.

Mr Martin is expected to urge EU capitals to support the continuation of trade talks amid growing calls for the Prime Minister to be hauled before the European Court of Justice for alleged breaches to the withdrawal agreement.

Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney has suggested a free-trade agreement between the UK and EU could provide answers to the most contentious areas of the Government’s Brexit Bill.

He told Bloomberg: “Despite the fact that a British Government is making a commitment to breach international law through domestic legislation and the impact of that on relationships has been very negative.

“Despite that, the issues that are outstanding that need to be resolved are issues I believe can be resolved and if they are in the weeks ahead well then I think the problems relating to that Internal Market Bill will fade away because the Bill won’t be necessary or at least the elements of the Bill that are contentious won’t be necessary.”

Mr Coveney remans optimistic a compromise can be found to help both sides clinch a trade deal before the transition period expires at the end of the year.

He added: “I think not agreeing a trade deal between the EU and the UK between now and the end of the year would be an enormous failure of politics and diplomacy.

“It would be damaging to the British economy and indeed the Irish economy and other EU countries also.

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“The incentive is there to get a deal done. We know what the outstanding issues are and they’re not insurmountable.

“I still think there’s a good chance we’ll get a trade deal before the end of the year.”

According to Charles Michel, the EU Council’s President, Brexit will only briefly appear at this week’s summit.

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He wrote in his invitation letter to EU leaders: “At the end of the meeting, we will provide a brief update on negotiations with the United Kingdom.”

The trade talks, however, are first on the agenda when EU leaders reconvene in Brussels in two weeks’ time.

The October 15 showdown coincides with Mr Johnson’s deadline to have Brexit negotiations wrapped up by.

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